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Proven Strategies to Quit Smoking

When You're Ready to Get Serious

Quitting Tobacco: Help for the First Hard Days

Sip Cold Water and Eat Small Meals

Sipping cold water through a straw can help replace the act of sucking on a cigarette. It also releases dopamine, a feel-good brain chemical that can help ease bad moods, research shows.

Eating small meals can also help you get past the urge to smoke. Choose lean, healthy foods to avoid weight gain.

Note Instant Rewards

You don't have to wait long to begin enjoying the benefits of a smoke-free life. Keep a written list of the good things as you begin to notice them. They might include feeling in control, saving money, smelling better, tasting food more vividly, and feeling more energetic. When the urge to smoke strikes, look at your list as a reminder of what you've gained from quitting.

Brush Your Teeth Often

One of the instant perks of quitting is that your mouth tastes better and your breath smells better. Brush your teeth often. That way, you'll be less inclined to light up a cigarette and foul that clean, fresh mouth.

Avoid Alcohol

Drinking it is one of the most common things that makes people go back to smoking. Here's why. Alcohol breaks down self-restraint, and that can erode your commitment to quitting. Many people also associate the act of drinking with smoking, so it may trigger you to light up.

Find Your Own No-Smoking Zones

When the urge to smoke strikes, go somewhere you can't light up -- a movie, the library, or a store for example. The more distracting the place is, the easier it will be to ride out cravings.

Remember Your Reasons for Quitting

Write down a list of all your reasons to stop smoking. Make copies and post them wherever you spend time -- in the kitchen, at the office, beside the bathroom mirror. Put them where they are easy to see, so you're reminded wherever you go. Some ex-smokers say they found it useful to put photographs of family and loved ones alongside their reasons.

Be Active Every Day

Exercise offers a powerful distraction from cravings. When your body is active, it sends out natural chemicals that help your mood and ease your stress. Walking is one of the easiest exercises for most people. Choosing a few different activities might help you stay motivated, though. Set aside time to be physically active every day -- especially in the first month after you've quit smoking.

Fill Your Calendar

During the first few weeks after you kick the habit, fill your days with things you want or need to do. Make plans to eat meals with family or friends, and try to steer clear of smoking temptations. The busier you are, the more distracted you'll be from the urge to smoke.

Put Something Else in Your Mouth

Part of the urge to smoke is having something in your mouth. In place of a cigarette, pop in sugar-free chewing gum, hard candy, or a healthy snack when you feel like you want to light up. Be sure to have something with you at all times. If you're concerned about gaining weight, stick with low-calorie options.

Secure a Lifeline

Ask someone to be there for you when you need support. The best choice is a friend who is also a former smoker. But anyone who cares for you and wants you to quit smoking can help when times get tough.

Limit Caffeine

Caffeine helps some people get going in the morning and stay alert when they're tired. But it makes others feel tense, jittery, and stressed. Breaking your nicotine addiction can boost those effects. If caffeine makes you jumpy or anxious, cut back on it.

Be Alert to Bad Moods

Negative emotions -- stress, anger, frustration -- are another common reason people go back to smoking. Bad moods happen to everyone, and chances are you'll feel more than your fair share of them during the first few weeks of quitting. Find ways to distract yourself. Get together with friends or do something else you really enjoy.

Avoid Troublemakers

Although friends and family should be supportive, they aren't always. Some people might feel threatened by your decision to quit. They might even try to undermine your best efforts. If you sense that there are people like this in your life, avoid them. If that isn't possible, sit them down and tell them why quitting is so important to you. Ask for their support.

Be Patient and Stay on Track

Once you make it through the first 2 weeks, you're on your way to a lifetime free of nicotine addiction. But be prepared in case you falter. Remember: One lapse doesn't mean you've failed. Just consider what went wrong. Then think up ways to prevent the same problem from happening again.

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on January 20, 2015

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