Smoking is often wrapped up in a network of complicated and often destructive emotions. Many people started smoking as a form of either rebellion against authority figures in their life or conformity with peers but to keep smoking into today’s unwelcoming climate, it definitely takes a little bit of a rebellious spirit. While little rebellions can be satisfying and fun, that attitude can also become part of a vicious quitting-not-quitting cycle. Few tips on how to quit without punishing yourself and struggle more than you are already.
Many smokers resolve to quit and get started strong, and then on the first slip-up, they feel so terrible that they smoke two or three in a row and give on the quit as busted. This is usually caused by a combination of self-punishment from the guilt of slipping and rebellion against those feelings of guilt. Even successful quitting efforts often involve self-punishment and negative self-talk instead of being the celebrant victory it should be.
Punishing Yourself While Quitting
We all have different motivational keys based on a combination of personality and raising. If your parents motivated you as a child with negative words and consequences, that’s how you’ll handle yourself as an adult. You’ll find yourself thinking things like “I’m a loser because I failed to quit.” and leveraging consequences. Many smokers will punish themselves for slipping as a form of discouragement from smoking rather than motivation to quit. You may have already tried a few techniques like forcing yourself to drink a shot of vinegar every time you smoke, ‘grounding’ yourself from favourite pastimes for slipping up, or even more drastic forms of self-punishment.
This may be popular, but it’s not the way to go. Feeling bad about yourself usually lowers your willpower and makes you more likely to feel dejected, depressed, and crave a smoke without the self-control to resist. Even though it may feel like you’re discouraging the behaviour, you’re actually just making it easier for the addicted part of your mind and body to seek a cigarette without positive energy to counter it.
Positive Quit Alternatives
If you’ve been using negative tactics and failing to quit, these two things could be more closely related than you realize. The best way to get different results is to try something new and positivity might be the last thing on your list. Rather than punishing yourself for slipping up, have you ever considered rewarding yourself for every day you don’t smoke? This is one of the most effective tactics available, especially if you really want the reward. Every time you’re tempted to smoke or buy a new pack because you threw out all the old ones, just think about the fact that you’d be forfeiting your reward and ask yourself if one cigarette is worth it? With this kind of motivation, you can motivate yourself to reduce a habit or stop smoking entirely one ‘is it worth it?’ cigarette at a time.
The First Step
When you’re first starting a quit, especially if you want to go cold-turkey instead of setting lower and lower goals, is to give yourself a big reward to start with and then settle into a more sedate reward pattern after that. A cold-turkey quit can be hard, but with something to look forward to if you succeed, it will go by a lot faster. Promise yourself a nice dinner, a trip to the spa, or a weekend playing your favorite game for getting through the first day without a cigarette, then amp it down to sustainable daily rewards for every day after you quit. If a day seems particularly challenging, up the reward to make it worth it. Just make sure to keep these promises to yourself or the motivation trick won’t stick for very long.
Luxurious and Free
The best way to maintain your motivation to stay quit is with a few rewards that doesn’t cost you anything but that you really want anyway. A long soak in a bubble bath, a special home-made dessert, or an evening on a favorite hobby are all great ways to motivate yourself from day-to-day. You can balance this with something less preferable like catching up on work at home or fixing that broken kitchen drawer instead of watching Game of Thrones in the bath, but don’t make the consequences of failure too severe or you risk swinging that response pendulum right back to rebellious smoking.
Spending Your Cigarette Money
Longer-term goals of a week or more can be more extravagant because you will have successfully saved a significant amount of money by not buying or smoking any cigarettes. A single week of not smoking can earn you and a guest a really wonderful restaurant meal, a professional massage, or a special purchase that you’ve been wanting for a long time. Keep track of your cigarette savings and every now and then, reward yourself by spending it on something nice. If you do slip-up, you can either donate the previously saved amount to a charity or hold onto it but wait to spend until you’ve not smoked again for at least another week.
Because smoking is an addiction and can become an integrated part of your lifestyle, it takes a lot of willpower to quit successfully. While you can get a little bit of motivation from exacting punishments on yourself for quitting, real motivation comes from feeling good about yourself and wanting to continue down that positive path. Rather than focusing on what happens if you slip, focus on what happens when you succeed instead and reward yourself for doing so.