Use Willpower to Manage Smoking Cravings

How Can Willpower Help Me Manage My Cravings?

Willpower strategies can be powerful tools when trying to manage smoking cravings. For example, consider the following scenario:

When a craving comes along, one corner of your mind says: “Go on, one cigarette won’t hurt”.

But you can counter this thought with other thoughts to keep that tempting voice in check until the craving passes. Try a thought like this:

“If I have one cigarette now, I’ll just end up going back to smoking. I really don’t want that – I’ve come too far to slip up now.”

These kinds of positive thoughts that challenge your craving thoughts will help reinforce the progress you’ve made on your quit smoking journey and keep you motivated to carry on.


Manage Cravings With These Willpower Strategies

As nicotine cravings can be challenging, and are quite common when you first quit, it’s important to have a set of effective willpower strategies to manage your cravings until they pass.

Not everyone uses the same willpower techniques – and you can always learn new skills to strengthen your willpower.

Here are three willpower strategies you might like to try out.

Whether you add them to your natural mental abilities and/or combine them with any of the evidence-based methods in this section, you might find these strategies useful when you need to combat cravings and stay motivated.


Willpower Strategy 1: Your Life As A Movie

Find a quiet spot where you can sit for 5 minutes without being distracted. Close your eyes and relax.

Now, pretend your life is a movie; a movie that can have different endings.

In this version of the movie, you are someone who never attempted to quit smoking as life progressed.

In your own mind, fast forward this movie 10 to 20 years into the future.

You pause the movie at a certain point. It happens to be a moment that shows the most serious negative consequence of continued smoking that is most meaningful to you – it could be related to your health, or something else, like your finances.

What does this image look like to you? Where are you? What situation are you in? Who else is in the image? If other people are there, what are the expressions on their faces as they look at you?

Take some time to carefully analyse this image – it’s important to make it meaningful to you. Slowly and mindfully take in all the details. Ensure the image has complete clarity.

Now, open your eyes.

Think of this image whenever you feel your quit smoking plan may be at risk.


Willpower Strategy 2: Having The Strength To Say No

Find a quiet spot where you can sit for 5 minutes without being distracted. Close your eyes and relax.

Pretend you’re in a movie. In this movie, you see a typical situation that shows you with someone else – a partner, friend or colleague – who you would normally have a smoke with.

You want to stick to your quit plan, but you feel tempted to break it by having a smoke.

The other person suggests having a cigarette. Hear them say to you, “Do you want to go and have a smoke?”

Now, in your own mind, hear yourself saying back to this person, “No thanks, I don’t smoke” or “No thanks, I’m a non-smoker”.

Practice this again. Slowly, in your own mind, repeat your response, “No thanks, I don’t smoke” or “No thanks, I’m a non-smoker”.

Notice how good it feels to have the strength to stick to your plan!

Now, open your eyes.

Think of this movie whenever you feel your quit smoking plan may be at risk.


Willpower Strategy 3: The Stray Cat

Find a quiet spot where you can sit for 5 minutes without being distracted. Close your eyes and relax.

Imagine yourself eating dinner at home one night, when you hear the sound of scratching and meowing at the door.

You open the door and find a hungry stray cat. You decide to feed your leftovers to the cat, which it quickly devours!

The next night, the cat returns, as hungry as ever. Once again, you decide to feed the cat – it loves the leftovers!

On the third night, the cat is back, scratching and meowing again. This time you decide you must put a stop to it and you choose not to feed it. The cat remains at the door, annoying you with its constant scratching and meowing.

However, you get distracted and after a while you notice the sound of the cat has stopped. You open the door to find the cat has gone.

Say this to yourself: “A craving is like a stray cat; if you feed it, it will keep coming back. If you don’t feed it, it eventually goes away”.

Cravings may hang around and annoy you for a while, but if you simply notice the craving without acting on it, it will go away – just like the hungry stray cat eventually gave up scratching and meowing.

Now, open your eyes.

Think of the stray cat whenever a craving occurs. Remember, don’t feed the stray cat!

For more simple willpower exercises, go to Willpower Strategies

Good to Know

Experiencing a smoking slip-up during your quit journey does not mean you have failed – in fact, the more attempts you make at quitting, the more chance you have of succeeding.
Check out Smoking Slip-Ups >

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