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Keeping up the good work to stay smoke free

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Keep up with your changes

Just like when you first quit smoking, keeping up these changes also takes effort and dedication.

It's important to stay complete smoke free to keep getting the .

Here are some helpful strategies and ideas that can help you maintain the changes you've made. 

Building your new smoking habits into your daily routine

You're more likely to stay smoke free in the long term if it becomes a habit. It needs to be something you do almost automatically.

It's best to link your new smoke free habits to 'cues' (or triggers) in your environment. That way you're more likely to maintain them over time.  A 'cue' can be:

  • Other people
  • An object such as a note on your fridge door
  • The time of day
  • Other behaviours or events, such as lunch breaks
  • How you feel, such as stressed or happy

There are cues wherever you go. This could be in your car, at work, at home, etc. It's important to create positive cues which trigger you to keep smoke free as often as possible.

How to create healthy habits using cues

New behaviours can become habits when you repeat them in the same place, or situation in response to a cue.

For example, planning to see friends on a Friday night somewhere that you can't smoke like a restaurant. Over time, the cue (Friday night) will trigger the habit (being at a non-smoking place with friends). It will happen without you being aware of it.

Sometimes, especially when you first quit, you may get a craving to smoke before you even think about smoking itself. For example, you always smoke after eating a meal.

You can work on replacing the smoking with something else you do after finishing a meal. This could be swapping smoking with something else, such as having a cup of tea or taking a short stroll.

Or it could be something that will put you off smoking, like brushing your teeth. Repeat this every time you get the cue (finishing a meal) until it becomes a habit.

Removing negative cues

You can break unhealthy habits which may stop you from staying smoke free. This is by removing what psychologists call 'negative cues'.

These types of cues can be particularly tricky when you're trying to quit smoking. For example, spending time with other smokers.

To break this link, you could avoid other smokers in the early days of your quit attempt if possible. Aim to spend time with non-smoking friends or family instead.

It doesn't mean you'll never be able to spend time with other smokers, but it will make your quit attempt much easier to avoid them for a while.

You may have habits which make you more tempted to smoke that you're not aware of. Take some time to think about your smoking habits, and whether are they linked to a cue or event.

For example, when you are taking breaks at work or while socialising, would you also usually smoke? Once you recognise these cues, think about how to break them and form new and healthier habits.

In this section we present two main ways to break unhealthy habits.  Have a think about which would work best for you:

  • You could consider avoiding the cue or trigger. For example, the cue is having a smoke while walking alone to work. You could try cycling, catching the bus or walking with a friend.
  • You could change what you do in response to a cue. This would be putting something in place of smoking, such as talking with a friend on the phone.

Take a moment to think about the cues in your environment. Think about positive cues as well as negative cues you could change to help you stay smoke free.

You might want to note these down or  save a copy (PDF) [99KB] of these statements to print off and fill in later:

1. Replacing or changing the cue (or trigger)

Current cues I already have in my environment are:

New cues which could trigger me to stay smoke free which I could add to my environment are:

Cues that tempt me to smoke that I could remove from my environment are:

2. Change the way you respond to a cue (or trigger)

A replacement activity I could do after a trigger (which usually makes me want to smoke) is:

Something positive I could remind myself after experiencing a trigger (which I did not give in to) is:

Using your environment and social support to stay on track

The people and things around you can keep you motivated and positive and help you to remain quit. This can be when you are at home, work, or with friends. A supportive environment could be:

  • Your home. If you live with other smokers, they don't invite you to smoke with them and don't leave ashtrays or lighters around.
  • Your home with non-smokers or smokers who encourage and support your efforts to quit
  • A workplace that provides you with spaces to take a break where you can avoid any outdoor smoking areas

Make sure that your environment and social support are as supportive as possible.

Think about those places or events that may get in the way of staying quit. For example, when a friend or colleague invites you to smoke with them.

These may be regular events and be difficult to avoid. If this is the case, think about what makes it difficult (barriers or obstacles) and what will make it easier (solution) for you.

Try making an If-Then plan which can help you plan ahead for difficult situations.  An example If-Then plan may be:

  • If a friend invites me to smoke with them... Then I'll tell them I have quit smoking. I'll say they would really help me if they could avoid inviting me to smoke with them or smoking around me for a while.

Find out more about making an If-Then plan.

Keeping an eye on changes to your routine

Another important way to keep up the changes you're made is by continuing to track and manage your emotions, thoughts or behaviours.

That way they won't get in the way of the changes you've made. For example, if you're stressed and feeling negative, this could trigger you to smoke.

So it's important to find positive ways to deal with stress and unhelpful thoughts.  Learn more about managing emotions.

Managing changes in routine

It can be normal to find it hard to stick to your goal when something unexpected happens in your life. This might be a stressful life event or getting some positive news.

The important thing is to notice when these things happen and to stop it throwing you off course. Planning how you might respond to challenges ahead of time means you're prepared for them.

One type of plan that can help you stay on track with your goals in these situations is an If-Then plan. To give an example:

  • If I experience an unexpected and very stressful life event... Then I'll remind myself that smoking will only make it worse. I'll start using nicotine replacement therapy to reduce the strength of any temptations to smoke

Find out more about making an If-Then plan.

Staying motivated

Often the things that motivate you to start making changes, are not the same things you need to stay quit.

So it's important to think about what motivates you to continue staying quit. It's easier to maintain changes if you have at least one thing that motivates you. Some examples of motivators:

  • Being satisfied and happy with what you have achieved. For example, you're now smoke free and feeling pleased with yourself about it.
  • Enjoying finding other things to do with non-smoking friends.
  • Being smoke free is more in line with who you are and what you believe in.

It may be useful to think about these motivators and how they are relevant to you.  To do this, try completing the below statements. You can note this down or   save a copy (PDF) [94KB] to print off later and fill in:

The thing I am most satisfied about with my new smoke free status is:

The thing I most enjoy about my new smoke free status is:

My identity, beliefs and values match my new behaviour of:

Having the right resources to keep you on track

One final strategy is to make sure you have a range of resources at hand whenever you need them. The articles and activities on this website will give you several resources and tools to use.

Types of resources that can help you keep on track can include:

  • Practical tools, such as an app which records and tracks your smoking or cravings
  • Emotional support, from a family member, friend or colleague
  • Self-care skills. This could be getting enough sleep, managing emotions and keeping fit and healthy.

For more information to help you keep on track, see the following:

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