According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking is the cause of 480,000 premature deaths annually in the United States alone, which equates to 1 out of 5 deaths. 16 million others suffer from serious illnesses because of cigarette smoking.

While some people find it easy to quit smoking, this is not the case for many people who’ve tried and failed. We all try to understand the psychology behind cigarette smoking without realizing that the first step is that a person has to want to quit.

We all think patches, pills and gums that will force the body to stop wanting nicotine, but the bottom line is that it is a matter of taking personal responsibility. Once you come to terms with the fact that you need to take control of yourself and your life, it becomes easier.

People know that smoking is bad for their health, but even so, many people still smoke. By quitting, you improve the length and quality of the life you live, as well as the lives of the people around you.

But why is it so hard to quit?

For one, it’s difficult to tackle the body’s physical addiction to the substance. Nicotine is highly addictive. This addiction travels quickly to the brain and causes a feeling of temporary relaxation and relief. It elevates the mood and heart rate. However, these feelings are all temporary. When the body rids itself of the drug, you crave for another stick of cigarette. This begins a vicious cycle of nicotine dependency.

Another reason is that you will find it difficult to find other ways to handle stress. Whether it’s because of your job, a financial problem, a relationship problem or just the stress brought about by plain, fast-paced living, it can make you look for an easy and quick relief so you just grab a cigarette whenever you feel anxious or stressed.

However, in the long run, smoking will only add to your stress because it will take away your good health. To successfully quit smoking, you need to be able to manage stress by thinking through stress-management options.

How to Begin

First, you need to identify what triggers your smoking. Determine the things that make you want to smoke including specific activities, situations, people and feelings.  A craving journal might help you zero in on your triggers. For a week, monitor your smoking and keep a log of those moments in each day that you craved for a cigarette. Answer these questions:

  • Which times of the day did you crave for a smoke?
  • In a scale of 1 to 10, how intense was that craving?
  • What were you doing before you craved for smoke?
  • How were you feeling?
  • Who were you with?
  • How did you feel after doing it?

How to Manage Your Cravings

While avoiding the triggers can help reduce the urge to smoke, it won’t make you avoid the cravings entirely. However, cravings don’t usually last long so try to wait for it to pass. Plan and be prepared in advance.

  1. Distract yourself. When the cravings urge you to smoke, distract yourself by turning on the TV, doing the dishes, taking a shower or calling a friend. Keep your mind busy by reading a book or a magazine, listening to music or do some crossword puzzle. Keep your hands busy with squeeze balls, paper clips, pencils or any other substitute that promotes tactile stimulation. It doesn’t matter what type of activity it is as long as it helps you get your mind off of smoking.
  1. Find an oral substitute. Use other things to pop in your mouth whenever you feel the urge to smoke. Choices include mints, carrot sticks, celery sticks, gums or sunflower seeds.
  1. Always remind yourself why you want to quit smoking. Focus on those reasons and think about the health benefits, the amount of money you are saving and your improved appearance when the cravings bother you.
  1. Reward yourself whenever you manage to get out of a tempting situation to keep yourself motivated.

It won’t be easy and you may fail with some of the first methods you try, but don’t stop trying. You are likely to attempt several ways or a combination of treatments before you actually find out what works best for you. Whatever happens, don’t quit trying.