Humans are creatures of habit. We tend to function best when we follow a routine. Early to bed, early to rise. We often don't even need to think about some routines; we just do them. Wake up, pee, brush teeth. Watch TV, bite nails. Good habits. Benign habits. Bad habits. We have them all and we all have them.
And for most of us reading this, we have (or had) smoking. Many people say smoking is a bad habit. We all know it certainly is very bad for our health, but is it a habit? (Tawk amongst y'selves)
For a successful quit journey, we all have to face two things:
- Our addiction to nicotine
- The habit loops we've developed around feeding that addiction
I decided to start this journey on January 7th by using nicotine patches while gradually decreasing the number of cigarettes I smoked each day until I was down to zero within 4 weeks. In order to decrease the number of cigarettes I smoked, I wanted to delay the first cigarette of the day. Here's what my morning habit loop looked like:
Walk into kitchen, make a cup of coffee, take two sips, go outside and smoke a cigarette.
Now, I LOVE coffee, but drinking coffee was inextricably tied to smoking for me. It was my cue, my trigger, to reward myself with a cigarette after not having one for at least 8 hours while I slept. If I wanted to delay that first cigarette, I had to delay the first cup of coffee. So, I poured myself a big glass of water and drank that instead. Then I asked myself if I really wanted a cigarette. I was able to wait at least 2 hours after waking up before having my first cup of coffee and my first cigarette.
As it turned out, I stopped smoking less than 2 weeks into the journey, and I created a new habit loop of drinking one or two large glasses of water before rewarding myself with the first cup of coffee that now tastes better than it ever did after smoking.
If you have about an hour to kill and are interested in the psychology of habits, I found a great podcast on NPR.