Knowing how to overcome mental cravings is part of the third stage of the CBQ method: Change your smoking pattern.
Here’s what you need to know so you can overcome cravings easily.
What Are Mental Cravings?
There are two types of cravings: physical and mental.
The physical cravings are a twitch, a hunger feeling in your stomach when your body is low on nicotine.
The mental cravings are just positive thoughts about smoking that create positive feelings about smoking.
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Thoughts like “I need a cigarette right now.”
“A cigarette would make me feel better.”
“If I don’t smoke, I won’t enjoy my day.”
Or “Just one puff won’t matter.”
All these are craving thoughts.
But remember, thoughts can’t hurt you, break you, or make you do anything- but they can be very overwhelming if you don’t know how to handle them- and I’m gonna show you how in a second.
How Long Do Cravings Last?
Physical cravings last around 3 minutes each. The physical cravings go away 3 to 5 days after you stop smoking because, by that time, almost all nicotine is out of your body. So if you stay nicotine-free for 5 days or more, you’re done with the physical addiction and the physical cravings.
Mental cravings are a bit different. Because they are thoughts, they can last for hours, months, and even years if you don’t handle them. Mental cravings go away when you change how you think about smoking.
So every mental craving will last for as long as you entertain the thought of smoking. For example, if you have a mental craving like “I need a cigarette right now,” and you start thinking, “yes, maybe I do need it.” And then you start picturing yourself smoking the first puff and feeling relief… then you’re putting fuel to the fire, and you are prolonging the mental craving.
You Have A Craving Mind that Causes Your Mental Cravings
Think of your craving mind as Golem from Lord of the Rings. If you haven’t watched the movie just imagine a miserable and needy creature that all it wants is its precious fix.
And the craving mind communicates to you in the form of a thought like “I need a cigarette right now” or “a cigarette would make me feel better.”
Why Do You Even Have a Craving Mind?
The reason you have a craving mind is that nicotine has hijacked your brain and makes it believe that you need nicotine to survive – just like you need food.
For example, when you eat, your brain releases dopamine, which makes you feel rewarded, so you want to eat again. The brain does that so you can keep eating and survive (If it didn’t release dopamine when you ate, you would forget to eat and die)
Unfortunately, nicotine affects your brain the same way. It hijacks the dopamine receptors in your brain, which makes it think that you need nicotine to survive.
So your brain reminds you to smoke, through your craving mind, because it thinks you need nicotine to survive.
But of course, you don’t need nicotine to survive. Your brain simply has outdated information.
In other words, the biological part of your brain has been totally hijacked. So you need to use the intellectual part of your brain to rewire the biological part.
How to Handle Craving Thoughts
A craving is a thought and there are many ways to handle your thoughts.
1) Reply back to the craving mind. When the craving mind tells you “I need a cigarette right now”, you can disagree or disregard it. You can say, “No, I don’t. You’re wrong,” or you can say, “okay, I heard you now I’m gonna move on.”
2) Let the craving thought pass. There was a recent study that found we have 6200 thoughts every day! So just let the craving thoughts pass from your mind as if they were any of the thousands of thoughts that you have every day. Don’t interact with them, don’t try to think about them, don’t try to entertain them… just let them pass mindfully.
3) Replace the craving thoughts. You can’t have two thoughts at the same time. So you can always replace a thought you don’t like with a new thought. Just imagine you’re watching TV and you’re changing the channel. Or that you’re changing the station on the radio. You can do the same thing with your brain. When you have a thought you don’t like you can replace it, you can tell yourself “next thought please” and there will always be a new thought available. Watch how to do that in my TED talk.
Will You Always Have Mental Cravings?
Your brain is a learning machine. The same way you programmed your brain to think about smoking, you can reprogram it to stop thinking about it.
The more you put yourself in situations where you used to smoke, and you don’t… and you feel good in those situations, your brain gets new information and sees that “hey we didn’t smoke and nothing bad happened to us.” And this new information allows you to rewire your brain because it gets proof that you don’t need nicotine to survive. So with time, it’s going to stop reminding you to get it!
A Craving is a State of Wanting
A mental craving is a state of wanting but what are you wanting?
Has this ever happened to you? You stop smoking, and this feeling of wanting stays with you for a while. So you think that smoking left a void, and you try to fill that void with other vices like food and alcohol.
But here’s the thing. Everyone has this feeling of wanting – smokers, non-smokers, never smokers. But as smokers, we have learned to respond to that feeling by smoking. In reality, we don’t want the cigarette nobody wants rolled grass with poisonous chemicals. What you want is to change how you feel.
So when you have a mental craving, this is a sign you’re low on some of your emotional needs. We all need to feel certainty, love, security, comfort, and relief. But when you have a craving, what you’re really craving is to meet an emotional need. You crave to feel in a certain way.
What to do?
When you have mental craving, ask yourself, “What do I really need right now?” or “What am I missing from my life right now?”
Find what you need, meet that need in a helpful way, and the craving will go away.
For example, let’s say you’re home alone and you feel that something is missing. Ask yourself “What do I really need right now?” Maybe you’ll realize that you feel lonely and need some connection.
Then ask yourself “How can I meet this need in a helpful way?” Perhaps making a phone call to a loved one is going to give you some of this connection. And, if this is what you were looking for.. you’ll see that the craving will go away.
Or if you feel anxious after an argument, instead of reaching for a cigarette, ask yourself “What do I really need right now?” Maybe it’s to feel relaxed and secure.
Then ask yourself “How else can I meet that need?” Maybe do deep breathing, journaling, take a walk, practice gratitude, there are many ways to feel relaxed and secure.
Or let’s say you’re in a social situation and everyone smokes and you crave a cigarette. Ask yourself “What do I really need right now?” Maybe it’s to connect and feel belonging or not to feel awkward with your hand.
Then ask yourself “How else can I do that?” maybe change the conversation or hold a glass of water with the hand you used to smoke. There is a solution to everything.
To sum up
- Mental cravings are positive thoughts about smoking that create positive feelings about smoking.
- The craving mind reminds you to smoke – through your craving thoughts – because it thinks you need nicotine to survive.
- You can overcome your craving thoughts – replace them, let them pass, reply back to them. Don’t act upon them.
- A craving is a state of wanting but what you’re wanting is to meet a need (not inhale chemicals). Meet that need in a helpful way, and the craving will go away.
Overcoming the mental addiction and specifically overcoming the mental cravings is part of the third quit smoking stage of the CBQ method which is Change your smoking pattern. The CBQ method has four stages in total and they’re all important to take you from a smoker to a happy non-smoker.
If you want to overcome the mental addiction and change how you see smoking make sure you get the foundational video of the CBQ Method.
The CBQ Method is a 4-stage method that’s specifically designed to help you overcome the mental addiction, change how you think about smoking, and break the habit. The mental addiction is the biggest part of the smoking addiction so overcoming it makes quitting easy.
And if you want help and support, join our CBQ method Facebook support group. We have thousands of members who are on the same journey as you. And we post tips every day to help you quit smoking and remain smoke free.
Join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/cbqmethod/