Let’s face it. Quitting smoking isn’t exactly a barrel of fun. There may be some initial excitement at the prospect of living a smoke-free life, and you may have made some plans to carry you through the first few days. There may even be times further down the road when congratulate yourself about how far you’re come from the days when you used to be an addict. But, in the meantime there is plenty of time to kill, and unless you’re well prepared, it can be easy to slip back into your old ways.
I talk about preparing to quit more than having quit because I firmly believe that preparation is the foundation for success. Very few people succeed in life without planning unless they are extremely lucky, and usually not in disciplines where a certain level of effort is required. The same is true for most people when they quit smoking. The better prepared you are, the more likely you are to be successful. Just one area in which you need to be prepared is how you will cope with boredom.
Psychologists have determined that the human being has an individual learned repertoire of coping mechanisms to combat boredom. Some of us are more skilled than others at addressing boredom, partially due to experience or circumstance and partially due to the creativity of the individual. On top of this, it has been determined that we tend to lean naturally on our learned behaviors to cope with boredom. By default, the easy way out is to resort to what we already know. This effectively means that if we get bored while quitting smoking, the easiest way to deal with the boredom would be to smoke. That is unless you have already foreseen the fact that you are very likely to be bored at times.
We all get bored from time to time, regardless of whether we smoke or not. The question you need to ask while quitting smoking is what you are going to do about it when it happens. This is particularly true in the beginning when you haven’t yet encountered the many situations where boredom is likely to set in, and you haven’t yet built a new repertoire of coping mechanisms. People often talk about ‘craving’ a cigarette. Initially, this is due to the nicotine addiction, but as time passes it becomes more of a psychological issue. Notwithstanding multiple other reasons for craving (or desiring) a cigarette, boredom is a situation that can be managed quite efficiently if you are prepared.
The first step is to understand that you may get bored. You may have nothing to do and not much interest in doing anything at that particular time. This may come about as something very short-lived such as having to wait five minutes for a bus, or something more significant such as having to stay a whole evening alone in a hotel room. Whatever the situation, it can easily lead to thoughts of filling the gap by smoking, as that would be one of your default coping mechanisms to combat boredom. To prepare for this, you need to recognize that boredom will likely happen at some stage while quitting and that it is okay to think about smoking under those circumstances. Tell yourself “I’m only thinking about smoking because I have nothing better to do right now.” Just by understanding this fact, you are more likely to succeed.
The second step is to build a set of alternate activities that can be carried out during those times when you are likely to be bored, from that five minutes at the bus stop to the five hours in the hotel room. I could list off thousands of activities for every circumstance imaginable, but I think it’s better for you to explore what suits you best. Books, puzzles, and computer games are among the favorite activities when you are alone, or participating in events with other people is always enriching. Whatever you choose to occupy yourself, be aware that it should be something you find enjoyable and not just something to do to fill time. Otherwise, that activity may bore you too! Also, try to find things that you can do in the longer term because your goal should be to build new ways of coping with boredom and not smoking. If you are at a loss for ideas, use Google to search for “100 things to do when I’m bored.”
Lastly, while building your list of activities to keep you from being bored, remember that your surroundings may dictate what you can and cannot do during those boring times. For example, you’re unlikely to be able to use your desktop computer at the bus stop and some environments may prohibit the use of mobile phones, or you may have no signal. Also, you may get temporarily bored of a certain activity, so be prepared to have a few alternatives that can be applied to the same circumstances. The key is to think ahead and be prepared for as many eventualities as you can imagine. After all, you have a lot more opportunity to control your life than the bored lion at the zoo!