When I quit, everyone told me that cravings were predictable.
It wasn’t about WHEN cravings would hit. It was about predicting the path that cravings almost always take.
Many studies say that cravings only last about 3-5 minutes. That may be what the researchers found was the most common timing. And that’s really about as long as all of mine ever lasted. But, as many of us know, cravings can be longer. And feel like the end of the world, right? (But it’s NOT.)
Here’s the thing about cravings: The more attention you give them, the longer they will probably last.
Read that again. THE MORE ATTENTION YOU GIVE A CRAVING, THE LONGER IT WILL PROBABLY LAST.
It is for this very reason, that we recommend preparing a list of distractions to use when you feel a craving coming on.
(If you want more advice on distractions, please see my blog titled “What’s in YOUR Toolbox”?)
Distractions take your attention away from the crave, give you something to do with your hands, and something for your brain to think about. Distractions also include things that will divert your physical sensations, like brushing your teeth, red pepper flake on your tongue, etc.
There are hundreds of ways to distract your attention from a crave. If you need ideas, send a private message to ANY Elder and we will explode your mailbox with ideas. Just remember, that NO advice or suggestion will work for you UNLESS YOU ACTUALLY DO IT.
But I have wandered away from the original idea of this blog: TIME. You cannot predict the amount of time you will experience a crave. And there are some very lucky Quitters who aren’t bothered by cravings. (That wasn’t me and I still can’t believe there are Quitters who don’t experience physical cravings...but they do exist. I wish...)
So...let’s talk about TIME. I’m sure many of you have heard Elders talk about how, in the beginning, sometimes you have to just look at getting through the next day, the next afternoon, the next hour, the next MINUTE when you are experiencing a craving, right?
But, another way to deal with cravings is to actually pay attention to TIME passing. NOT to the time it takes to get through a craving or the amount of time that a craving may last.
But to just plain TIME as it passes...
I love hour glasses. Hour glasses come in all sizes and times. Sometimes they are just called “sand timers” (because if it isn’t a timer for one hour, how can you call it an “hour glass” right?)
Did you know that sand timers come in increments as short as 30 seconds? And there are sand timers for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 15, 30, 45 minutes. And that they come in all shapes and sizes and colors? Sand timers are fun! Take a look at a shopping website. They aren’t that expensive.
What if you just decided to ride out a craving by watching the time pass? (Thomas called it “riding out a crave”. He meant that sometimes the best way to deal with a crave is not to fight it, but to just ACKNOWLEDGE it and watch it build, come to a crest and then subside.)
There is a hypnotic quality to watching grains of sand fall through an hour glass. When I was a new Quitter, I could usually distract myself from a craving long enough for it to pass. (But it usually ended up involving chocolate or scrubbing toilets.) How I wish I had thought of getting a set of colorful sand timers! I could have sat down with a 30-second timer in the first days and stood firm for that long while I watched time pass. And then on to 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10, 15, 30 minutes.
By the time I got up to 15 or 30 minutes, I probably wouldn’t have felt the need to sit right in front of the hour glass and watch the colorful grains of sand fall. Why not? Because I KNEW that time was passing, that the sand was falling and that I could make it through anything for those short, ever-increasing amounts of time. And that, with every hard-earned day that I didn’t smoke, I was getting stronger and that living without cigarettes was getting easier (even if I didn’t FEEL it at the time). Because I was learning to live in my “new normal”.
Time is not our enemy. Don’t think in terms of “never smoking again” or “the rest of my life without cigarettes”. Take it 30-seconds at a time in the beginning of your Quit. And be proud of every minute that you handle cravings without giving in to your nicotine addiction.
Watch the grains of sand fall through the hour glass. And know that with every single grain of sand, you are saving your own life. You are not “giving up” time as a smoker! You are learning to love the time you are now living as an EX!
I’ve missed being here SO much. I want to get to know all each and every new Quitter. Talk to me!