Stop Smoking Tips: Use Positive Reinforcement Lists

Patient Expert

When I was struggling to quit smoking, I found it helpful to write down all the reasons I wanted to stay smoke-free and carry that list with me. These statements were little nuggets of positive reinforcement that served to remind me of why quitting was so important to me.

Whenever I was in the grip of a craving, I would be tempted to throw all caution to the wind and just go have that darn cigarette. But if I could give myself time to take a few deep breaths and refer back to my list, I would uncover the calm resolve I needed to make it through the moment.

I soon found that nothing was ever as bad as it seemed - time always made the cravings go away. The trick was to give myself enough time to get past the craving and make it through to the other side. I needed to learn how to deal with these moments without returning to my old habits. The reasons I wrote down were meaningful to me and they will be different for everyone. I share my list here with the hope that it might inspire someone to start his or her own list.

Reasons I wanted to become smoke-free:

  • Be healthy and live longer for my daughter
  • Stop smelling up my car
  • Have whiter teeth
  • Remove the hassle of always needing the next nicotine fix
  • Be able to walk up stairs without gasping
  • Drive in the car with my mittens on
  • Wake up without phlegm clogging my throat
  • Get rid of the subtle but chronic pain in my throat and lower teeth
  • Stop freezing outside just to have a smoke
  • Save money
  • Stop stinking like a walking ashtray
  • Be able to smell flowers and taste foods again
  • Gain back my self-esteem

One time I even took a big post-it sheet and hung it in my office and wrote those reasons down in big letters so they would be staring me in the face all day long (my boss thought that was kind of funny but he was also happy to see how motivated I was).

I found that pretty soon these reasons had become internalized and it became more and more difficult to relapse without thinking of that list. Once I quit for good, I found myself thinking of it as a checklist that I could now proudly say I had accomplished.

I relish the clean smell of my car, my hair, and my clothes. I'm so grateful that my daughter never knew me as a smoker. I enjoy driving with my hands snuggled inside warm mittens (no more bare fingers trying to grasp a burning cigarette).

My lungs are clear in the morning and I no longer have a smoker's cough. I love the subtle taste of herbs and the intoxicating smell of fresh flowers. My smile is bright and my throat and lower teeth no longer ache. I can actually run for long distances now without getting too winded.

I feel a little sorry for those who come in from the cold smelling so strongly of smoke (it's a pretty gross smell and I am rather mortified to think that I used to enter elevators and attend meetings stinking like that). Although I've never added it up, I know I have saved tons of money since I quit smoking. Some people even put that saved money in a jar and use it to treat themselves as they hit milestones - a very nice idea!

Best of all, I have my self-esteem back. The self-loathing I felt as I struggled to quit smoking over and over again was getting to be so burdensome. I used to think that I was just naturally low in self-esteem, but eventually I discovered that all this time I had it backwards - the self-esteem grew as I started treating myself better.

Today I am a confident, sober, and cigarette-free woman who is living the life I know I was meant to live. And my daughter is still the center of my universe - only now I feel that I show her through my actions how much I want to be a part of her life for a long time to come.