To Stay Smokefree for the Long-Haul You Need Strategies With Staying Power

Up until now you've been learning short-term strategies to beat your physical, social and mental addiction on and right after Quit Day. Now it’s time to look at long-term strategies to maintain your smokefree status and live life confidently as a former smoker.

The first three long-term strategies focus on ways to make healthy lifestyle changes. Not only do these changes make it easier to say good-bye to smoking—those who adapt healthy lifestyle changes are also more likely to become lifelong nonsmokers. The last two strategies are about relapse prevention.

Strategy One: Make a Plan for Physical Activity

When you quit smoking, you feel better and have more energy. Use this time to come up with an ongoing plan for physical activity that keeps you moving. As you learned in Session 3, physical activity doesn’t have to mean going to the gym every day, although it can.

Here Are Some Ideas to Get You Started

Select each box for some easy ways to add activity to your day.

Take a two-minute walk.
Adding short stretches of activity to your day is a great way to start if you haven’t been very active recently. Try doing just two minutes of extra walking each day. Then after a few days, bump it up to five minutes, then 10, and so on. In no time, there will be nothing stopping you.
Try a step-by-step approach.
Using a pedometer or fitness tracker to count your steps is a great way to track progress toward a challenge you set for yourself. You can also use an exercise app that keeps track of distance. Pick a goal—say walking 10,000 steps or two miles—and then do a little more each day until you reach it.
Add some fun to your week.
Doing one or more of these fun activities for enough time each week can add up to the equivalent benefit of walking a mile at a moderate pace:
  • Dancing
  • Gardening and yard work
  • Golfing (no cart!)
  • Hiking
  • Bicycling
  • Playing with children
  • Washing your car

The key to being more active is to choose something you like to do, or something new you always wanted to try. As a bonus, you’ll also feel less stressed!

Your Plan for Physical Activity

It’s easy to say you’ll try to be more active. But making a plan for how you'll add activity to your life will make it more likely you'll follow through.

To come up with a plan to be more active, start by answering four quick questions.

Which activities do you already like to do or are willing to try? Select as many as apply or enter your own answer.

Walking or hiking Gardening Bicycling or spin class Swimming Dancing Yoga or martial arts Bowling Softball Volleyball Jogging or using a treadmill

When could you find time to be active?

In the morning On breaks at work or school At lunch After work or school After dinner

Where is a good place for you to be active?

At or near home At or near work At a recreation center or gym

Who do you want to be active with?

Just myself My spouse or partner Family Friends Co-workers
Edit activity

Be Smart—Don’t Overdo It

There are two ways to ruin good intentions when it comes to being more active. One is doing too much, too fast. The other is doing something you don't enjoy.

In general, if you can’t talk easily while doing an activity, you may be overdoing it. Remember the importance of stretching and having proper equipment for the activity you choose as well.

NOTE: In general, light- and moderate-intensity activities are safe for most people. If you have a preexisting condition you should talk to your healthcare provider first before beginning any new moderate- or high-intensity activity.

Being more physically active is one of the most important long-term strategies for staying quit for good.

Strategy Two: Eat Healthy and Control Your Weight

Now that you’ve quit smoking and your health, appearance and sense of self-control are better, you can probably see how this is also a good time to improve your eating habits. Looking at what and why you eat can also help you make better decisions to avoid or limit the weight gain that sometimes happens after quitting smoking.

The Six Main Reasons People Gain Weight After Quitting

There are a few reasons quitting smoking and gaining weight seem to go hand-in-hand. Understanding them can help you limit how much you gain and guide you to adopt healthier habits. Select each box to learn more.

You substitute snacks for cigarettes.
Now that you’ve quit smoking you may eat instead when you have the urge to smoke. Many people also eat to replace smoking during times of stress or even to give them something to do with their hands and mouth.
Your senses of taste and smell are better.
Smoking dulls your senses. Since you’ve quit smoking, food probably tastes and smells better, making it more appealing to eat.
Your metabolism returns to normal.
Some research has shown that smoking makes your metabolism speed up. When you quit, your metabolism starts returning to normal and you begin burning fewer calories.
Your energy is lower since quitting.
Although quitting will eventually give you more energy, you may have been feeling sluggish during the first part of your recovery from the physical addiction of cigarettes. If you are tired, you may be less active.
Your appetite is better.
One of the effects of nicotine is decreased appetite. Now that you’ve quit smoking you may be feeling hungrier as your appetite rebounds.
You are craving sweets.
Nicotine satisfies many people’s craving for sweets. Now that you’ve quit smoking you may have a stronger desire to eat sugary foods to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Want to learn more? Visit the Resources section to print a “Why Do I Eat” quiz. This tool can help you identify your potential roadblocks in managing weight so you can address your individual challenges directly.

If you are feeling hungrier than usual these days, try some of these suggestions instead of raiding the refrigerator. For more information on healthy eating, visit choosemyplate.gov.

  • Drink a large glass of water or a low-calorie drink every hour. You’ll feel less hungry.
  • Keep your hands busy with anything other than food or cigarettes. Start a project. Play on your phone. Take a shower.
  • Eat three small meals and two snacks a day.
  • Don’t eat on the run or you’ll end up eating more.
  • Live with occasional hunger pangs. The desire to eat may disappear in a short time if you do nothing.
  • Keep low-calorie snacks on hand. Hunger sensations can be satisfied with just 50 calories.

Whatever you do, do not use weight gain as an excuse to go back to smoking. Make being smokefree your number one priority!

Strategy Three: Change How You Think About Stress

Life is full of stress and quitting smoking won’t change that. What can change is how you deal with stress. Don’t ignore the things that cause you to worry or that overwhelm you. Instead, look for real solutions to solve the problem.

Use These Ideas for Solving Your Stress

Select each box for ideas to lower the stress level in your life.

If you never seem to have enough time...
  • Get up 15 minutes earlier or give yourself extra time to get where you need to go.
  • Prepare what you need for the day the night before.
  • Be ready to wait. Carry a book you can read if you’re stuck in line.
If you are always disorganized...
  • Don’t rely on your memory. Instead, write lists to help you remember what you need to do.
  • Make copies of your keys and keep them in a safe and consistent spot.
  • Be clear about what you need to do. Ask questions if you’re not sure about something.
  • Make a place for everything and put everything in its place.
If you often feel overwhelmed...
  • Say no sometimes! It’s okay to not do extra activities or projects you don’t have the time or energy to do.
  • Do one thing at a time rather than trying to multitask.
  • Try taking your mind off a task for a while. It may be easier when you come back to it.
  • Delegate responsibility to capable people.
If you are frazzled all the time...
  • Eliminate or limit the amount of caffeine you drink and eat.
  • Turn off your phone.
  • If you can’t find quiet, try earplugs.
  • Do one thing at a time. Don’t worry about everything else until you get that thing done.
If you are a perfectionist...
  • Relax your standards. It’s okay if everything is not perfect.
  • Know the difference between a “need” and a “preference.” Don’t get attached to preferences.
  • Be flexible. Some things are not worth perfection.
  • Be forgiving when things go wrong.
If negativity always creeps in...
  • Count your blessings! For everything that goes wrong, there is probably even more that goes right.
  • Spend time with friends who are positive thinkers.
  • Visualize success. Imagine how great it will feel when you’ve stayed smokefree for good.
  • Avoid people and places that tend to make you feel bad or annoyed.

When all else fails, using positive self-talk can help you meet life’s challenges in a more rational and calm way. Tell yourself “I can do this. I am prepared!” The more confidence you have in yourself, the easier it will be to address a stressful situation. Use these questions to formulate a plan:

  • What is the worst that could happen? How likely is that, really?
  • Is my thinking helping or hurting me?
  • What is the good side of this situation?
  • What needs to be done? Am I the one to do it?
  • How can I handle this in a way that will help me?

Relaxation and Positive Thinking

This relaxation and positive thinking exercise is especially for new nonsmokers. Try it now and keep using it as often as you can. After you listen to it here, visit the Resources section to download the MP3 files for use any time. You can also find other helpful relaxation exercises there.

Listen

Strategy Four: Have a Plan for Socializing

As a short-term strategy for quitting, it’s wise to avoid social situations that you strongly associate with smoking. But eventually you’ll need to get back out there. When that time comes, the following tips and advice can help you successfully face these situations as a new nonsmoker.

Before you enter a setting or social gathering that might trigger an urge to smoke, try to picture yourself in that situation. Imagine being offered a cigarette but successfully saying no and doing something else instead. Once you really go:

  • Find a place where people aren’t smoking or find a nonsmoker to hang out with.
  • Keep your hands occupied.
  • Tell people you no longer smoke.
  • Be ready to respond to negative comments with a firm but positive response.
  • Keep practicing saying no to offers of cigarettes until it’s second nature for you.

Caution! Consuming alcohol may increase your urge to smoke. If you normally drink alcohol while socializing, you may want to switch to soda or seltzer water instead until you are sure you can handle it.

Strategy Five: Keep Rewarding Yourself

As you learned earlier, people who reward themselves for quitting and staying quit are more likely to succeed over the long haul. So don’t let big milestones pass unnoticed. Instead, savor these dates as a reminder of overcoming your addiction.

After completing Freedom From Smoking® Plus, keep celebrating milestones such as your three-month, six-month and one-year anniversary of Quit Day.

Bringing it All Together

If you have stayed smokefree since Quit Day, good for you! At this point your physical recovery should be nearly over. Your social and mental recovery may take a bit longer but the strategies in this session will help.

Keep looking for ways to make healthy lifestyle changes. The benefits will outweigh any perceived loss from not smoking.

Stay active and eat well to maximize the benefits of your increased energy and the health benefits of quitting.

Keep using your relaxation exercises to combat stress but look for ways to resolve recurring stress too.

Prepare and practice for social situations coming up in your life.

Celebrate small and big victories. You don’t need to give yourself a reward for every milestone but do give yourself plenty of credit for staying smokefree.

If you find yourself struggling at any time, ask for support on the Freedom From Smoking® Community or ask the Lung HelpLine for advice.

True or False? Physical activity is one of the best strategies for staying quit for the long term. True False This is true. Being more physically active is one of the most important long-term strategies for staying quit for good—and as a bonus, exercise can help you cope with stress too. Why might you gain weight after quitting? Your senses of taste and smell are better. Your metabolism returns to normal. Both answers are correct. Because smoking dulls your senses, food usually tastes and smells better after you quit, making it more appealing to eat. When you couple that with a metabolism that returns to normal after quitting, it’s understandable why you might gain weight if you are not careful about the food choices you make. Picturing yourself not smoking is a great strategy for: Adding more activity to your daily schedule. Thinking of ways to face a social situation where you might have the urge to smoke. Rewarding yourself for your nonsmoking milestones after Quit Day. You can’t avoid social situations forever but you can prepare to face this common smoking trigger using visualization. Picture yourself in the setting and think about how you’ll successfully resist the urge to smoke by doing something else instead.

Before returning to the Dashboard, it might be valuable to go back and review this session to make sure you understand the key points.

You are now at the end of Session 8. Just one more session to go! Hopefully by now you are really starting to think of yourself as a nonsmoker. You may also be experiencing fewer physical recovery symptoms and fewer urges to smoke. Don’t let your guard down yet. But definitely give yourself credit. Every hour, day and week without tobacco is cause to celebrate. Stay strong!

Before returning to the Dashboard, it might be valuable to go back and review this session to make sure you understand the key points.

You are now at the end of Session 8. Just one more session to go! Hopefully by now you are really starting to think of yourself as a nonsmoker. You may also be experiencing fewer physical recovery symptoms and fewer urges to smoke. Don’t let your guard down yet. But definitely give yourself credit. Every hour, day and week without tobacco is cause to celebrate. Stay strong!

Great Job! You are now at the end of Session 8. Just one more session to go! Hopefully by now you are really starting to think of yourself as a nonsmoker. You may also be experiencing fewer physical recovery symptoms and fewer urges to smoke. Don’t let your guard down yet. But definitely give yourself credit. Every hour, day and week without tobacco is cause to celebrate. Stay strong!

Great Job! You are now at the end of Session 8. Just one more session to go! Hopefully by now you are really starting to think of yourself as a nonsmoker. You may also be experiencing fewer physical recovery symptoms and fewer urges to smoke. Don’t let your guard down yet. But definitely give yourself credit. Every hour, day and week without tobacco is cause to celebrate. Stay strong!

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