Re-learning Rewards

Blog Post created by dr_hays on Jan 31, 2018

For many people, a particular challenge to becoming and staying tobacco free are the cravings that occur while having coffee, after a meal, or when relaxing. Like all cravings and associations with cigarettes, this fades over time; however, the thought of having a cigarette or ‘dip’ along with these activities can be persistent.   Understanding cravings, and making plans to purposefully enjoy these activities without tobacco, can help the association fade away more quickly.


Tobacco, like any addictive substance, stimulates the reward system in the brain. In doing that it can become strongly associated with other activities, thoughts, or feelings.  This association makes it more likely that a person will ‘want to smoke or dip’ the next time they experience that activity, thought, or feeling.


Nicotine also has some relatively unique characteristics, it is a powerful ‘secondary reinforcer’, meaning It also enhances the experience of other things, like beverages, food, warm social gatherings, or relaxation.  After quitting tobacco, enjoyment of coffee, social connections, or relaxing may not ‘feel-the-same’ for a while. 


The good news is that enjoyment of all these activities, in the absence of tobacco, returns.  Every time you enjoy a cup of coffee, good company, or relaxing without a cigarette; your ability to enjoy that activity becomes stronger.


You can also hasten this recovery by mindfully taking a moment to appreciate, kindle, the taste of coffee, good company, feeling relaxed, or the taste of food.  Enjoying life on life’s own terms has its rewards, and re-learning life’s enjoyments without tobacco is a pleasure in itself