Cigarettes deliver nicotine very quickly and powerfully to the brain. This burst of nicotine becomes very strongly associated with a whole assortment of cues in one’s life. These cues are the things that you run into every day that make you think of lighting up, because they actually “trip a switch” in your brain that is almost automatic. For some people it can feel like their body is already reaching for a cigarette before their mind realizes it.
It can be very tiring and difficult to only will-power one’s way through the cravings associated with activities, people, feelings, moods, places, and the many other smoking situations that occur through a day. Willpower is better used to create plans in advance so that the cues to smoke are less intense and overwhelming.
Use willpower to sit down, beforehand, and develop strategies to manage the many situations that are associated with smoking. Identify cues. They can be very personal, but some common ones are: seeing a cigarette or someone smoking, seeing an ashtray, hearing the flick of a lighter, smelling smoke, drinking coffee, seeing tobacco advertising, having an alcoholic drink, or just being in a room or a place where you normally smoke.
Imagine alternative activities or thoughts to use that can help to distract from these situations. Make a firm decision to use medications that can reduce the intensity of cravings to smoke. Write down the reasons for not smoking and keep it in place of the cigarette pack to review when cravings happen. Change routines. Plan to begin the day differently. Relax in a different room. Take a different route to work. Take a break with non-smoking friends or colleagues. Avoid your favorite places to smoke. Get rid of cues that can be disposed like lighters and ashtrays.
Developing plans to employ active alternatives to smoking, or plans to avoid cues altogether, is an effective and smart use of your willpower.