When you stop smoking, your willpower makes it pretty easy to manage the first few of hours of quitting. But after that, you’ll find yourself bored, with your reflex having you reach into your pocket to light a ciggie.
Instead, you can be listening to music, writing in a journal, or even brisk walking as an exercise starting point.
Any of these activities make it so much easier to briefly forget about tobacco and get you through your current nicotine craving. By keeping idleness at bay, you set yourself up for quitting success.
In this post, we’ll take a look at how keeping busy helps you quit smoking for good.
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The Vicious Cycle of Idleness and Smoking
As one of the oldest sayings goes, ‘idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.’
Not counting any religious or spiritual aspects, there is truth in this statement – when your mind is bored and idle, your nicotine cravings will come to life.
It’s natural for humans to want an escape from boredom. The human brain is wired for novelty, and it takes great willpower to avoid it – willpower that doesn’t last long for many people.
Unfortunately, tobacco can hijack our dopamine – the natural reward system of the body. Nicotine can inject us with some energy and release dopamine into our system, making us feel good and want to do it again.
If a smoker who just quit a few days ago remains idle without anything to keep their mind, hands and mouth busy, their urge to smoke grows stronger. Their brain notices the lack of nicotine in their system, pushing them harder and harder to get that hit.
Indeed, a smoker leaves a huge void by quitting smoking, especially going cold turkey, so make sure your days are filled with activities that make you forget about smoking and establish new and productive habits.
Battling Boredom: The Danger of Temptation
There’s a risk to idle meditation when you’ve just started to quit smoking – it takes some willpower to focus on your breathing alone.
A better way to battle boredom and avoid the temptation to smoke is to keep yourself busy, especially when the cravings grow stronger.
Many ex-smokers attest to the fact that any non-addictive activity can keep you from thinking of smoking.
For instance, walking outdoors or in a park can keep your mind wandering and finding novelties in your new environment.
Another alternative is to read a book and get lost in a new fictional environment and care for its characters. Books do take some time to wind you up, but when the cravings get stronger, just keep on reading – it will distract you enough to let the feeling pass.
By keeping yourself busy, you preemptively avoid giving in to your cravings. To keep you active and engaged, here are some more habits and activities you can do.
New Habits and Activities to Keep You Busy
If you need some ideas to strengthen your willpower against stopping smoking, here are a few:
Exercise: Walking, running, jogging, and swimming are great for rebuilding your cardiovascular system. Your lungs might feel weak during the first few times you work out, but you will surely feel good after your body releases endorphins.
Relaxation: Contrary to popular belief, smoking does not and will not be a relaxing activity – nicotine introduces adrenaline into the body.
If you can handle some physical downtime and keep your focus, you can go for mindfulness meditation and journaling. Otherwise, doing yoga and simply decluttering your space can relax your mind.
Mental Activities: While exercise is great, your body has a limit to the activities it could endure (if you keep at it, though, your endurance will keep on improving). As mentioned, reading is a great pastime. You can also try creative writing, painting, puzzles, or even writing about how successful you are after a month, a year, or a decade without cigarettes.
Repairing Your Internal Reward System
Quitting smoking detaches tobacco as a primary dopamine trigger. As you change your habits and set new goals, your internal reward system will repair itself and kick out nicotine as the only thing that triggers it.
Of course, during your first few hours or days of quitting, you’ll throw off your dopamine balance. You’ll have mood swings and feel dissatisfied with almost anything during this period.
But as you keep yourself busy, discover new hobbies, and find new activities, your dopamine levels will stabilise, making you feel good by doing things that do not involve lighting up.
A Supportive Environment
Our environment is partly responsible for developing our habits and preferences. In a supportive environment filled with empathy and understanding, a smoker going through withdrawal has the best chance of quitting for good.
A house or workplace where others do not smoke around you, or invite you to smoke with them to socialise, improves any motivated smoker’s success in quitting.
Aside from creating a healthy non-smoking environment at home, we also recommend joining a smoking cessation group.
While your family and friends can support you, group members are going through the same issues as you, making it easier to empathise and relate to them as you all go through your quit journeys together.
How to Quit Easily
Today, you can easily quit tobacco if you’ve fully made up your mind. You won’t have to fear losing any willpower and going back to smoking with the ongoing help of GPs, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and nicotine vaping products (NVPs) from pharmacies.
Consult a GP
Many smoking cessation groups are facilitated by GPs who specialise in smoking cessation. They can create a tailor-made plan based on your previous tobacco consumption to make sure the NRT products you use can help you quit successfully.
NRT products, such as lozenges, gums, and patches deliver a small dose of nicotine designed to satisfy your cravings and wean you off cigarettes. While effective, they don’t always work for everyone, which is where pharmacy-sold NVPs can come in.
More About NVPs
NVP products sold in pharmacies are made under stringent pharmaceutical standards on the manufacturing process and ingredients, are toxicologically assessed for inhalation, are locally insured, and are specifically designed to help you stop smoking.
The latest Cochrane Review found high-certainty evidence that NVPs are more effective than NRT in helping people stop smoking.
It’s important to know that if you access a vape without a prescription, you’re consuming an illegal vaping product that can endanger your health. Illicit NVPs (such as those in convenience stores and tobacconists) are imported under the radar, just like illicit tobacco and drugs, and are made as cheaply as possible for maximum profits.
Furthermore, imported illegal NVPs sold in the blackmarket contain nickel and lead, two metals that are fatal to human health.
Our brains crave novelty, and at the cost of satisfying boredom, it’s easy to just reach for a ciggie. Instead, keep yourself busy, try new hobbies, and over time you’ll find yourself not thinking about smoking at all.
We know you’re here because you want to know how to keep busy after you’ve stopped smoking. We can help.
Smokefree Clinic gives you access to many medically reviewed and trustworthy resources that can inform and aid you in your path to wellness, so have a look around!
If you’re ready to get started, Smokefree can connect you to bulk-billing Australian healthcare professionals who excel in helping patients quit smoking for good, including using responsible vaping products where appropriate.
Click here to book your bulk-billed telehealth consultation with an Australian healthcare professional and quit smoking today.