Quitting smoking is no easy feat. In fact, once the initial withdrawal symptoms have passed, remaining smoke-free can be just as difficult. According to the American Cancer Society, it takes 8-10 attempts for the average person to quit smoking for good. Nicotine – a substance naturally found in tobacco – is highly addictive, therefore, it can be hard to resist the urge to reach for a cigarette, particularly in stressful situations. To help you kick the habit for good, we have put together some key tips on how to stay smoke-free after quitting. Understand Your Triggers To resist a trigger, or prevent the urge in the first place, it’s important to understand what causes them. Smoking can become associated with daily activities, such as watching TV, chatting with friends, travelling to certain locations or even certain times of the day. If smoking was once intertwined with your day-to-day life, these triggers could cause cravings even if you have been smoke-free for long periods of time. Therefore, acknowledging inevitable triggers can prepare you to fight off these cravings effectively. Once you have recognised what triggers cause you to slip, you can change your routine to avoid them. For example, if you would usually pair your morning coffee with a cigarette at home, have your coffee to go and take a short walk around your local area. Or, if you happen to be travelling and have the urge to smoke, call a friend to take your mind off the craving. Beat the Cravings Beating the craving is how to stay smoke-free after quitting. The longer you go without smoking a cigarette, the less urge you will have to start again. Fighting cravings can be difficult, but having an effective plan can help during moments of weakness. Write a list of activities that are proven to help you ignore your cravings, for example: practising breathing techniques or meditation, taking a walk, calling a friend for support or moving to a different location for a change of scenery. Think About the Benefits Everyone quits smoking for a reason, whether for their health, family, or future. In difficult moments when you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms or urges, focus on your ‘why’ to ground you in the reasons you quit in the first place so you can push past the cravings. If you’re struggling to find your ‘why’, a common reason is the financial benefit. The average smoker spends approximately £150 on cigarettes per month; this amounts to £114,000 over 60 years. Putting this money aside to occasionally reward yourself when you reach a milestone is how to stay smoke-free after quitting. Healthy Eating Once you have quit smoking, it’s common to have an enhanced appetite. To manage your weight and maintain a nutritious diet, opt for healthier alternatives by swapping sweets for fruit, chocolate for crunchy vegetables like carrots and cucumbers, and crisps for unsalted nuts. Eating a balanced diet packed with high-fat foods and vitamins will help keep you satisfied for longer and maintain high-energy levels, as well as lower your cholesterol. Be Active Physical activity can range from a casual stroll to a high-intensity workout class. No matter your preference, all types of exercise can distract from impending cravings or act as coping mechanisms for lingering withdrawal symptoms. Regular exercise for just 10 minutes a day can also help you achieve health-related goals such as improving lung efficiency and lowering blood pressure. We recommend finding an activity you enjoy, whether that be a team sport, long walks or hitting the gym. This way, you can easily implement physical activity into your routine without it feeling like a chore. Humans are instinctually creatures of routine, so at the beginning of each week, we recommend writing an activity plan to increase the chance of hitting your goals. Life can be unpredictable, so your exercise plan should be flexible. If something comes up on an exercise day, move the physical activity to another time or day in the week to ensure you keep up the good work. A flexible exercise schedule can be the difference it takes for you to meet your health goals and how to stay smoke-free after quitting. Slips and Setbacks A relapse is very different to a slip or setback. The latter is just one or two cigarettes after you have quit. However, a relapse is when your addiction regains control, and you go back to smoking regularly. If you do happen to relapse, get support straight away. The quicker you try and quit again, the easier it’s likely to be. For help and advice, visit our article on how to quit smoking. After a slip, it is possible to get back on track; try to keep a positive mindset and celebrate what you have already achieved. We appreciate how difficult it can be to remain optimistic when you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms and cravings, but it’s important to keep looking forward and avoid putting yourself down. Everyone’s journey to becoming smoke-free is unique, so try to remain upbeat and take it day by day. Remember, if you do slip, it’s not the end of the world. Smoking a few cigarettes after quitting is not classed as a failure, in fact, it’s a normal part of the quitting process. Acknowledging and preparing for the challenges ahead is how to stay smoke-free after quitting. If you are slipping time and time again, maybe cold turkey isn’t the right method for you. Instead, why not try nicotine-containing e-liquids? Vaping is 95% safer than smoking, according to Public Health England; therefore, e-liquids could be the safer alternative that provides the nicotine fix you crave without all the nasties that come with cigarettes.