Updated: Sep 1
Each time someone lights a cigarette, it takes them an average of 6 minutes to finish it. If that same someone smokes a pack of 20 cigarettes per day, they burn 2 hours every day (730 hours each year) smoking. When we also consider the time and energy invested in earning a living, and that money is spent on tobacco, that hard work goes up in smoke.
How we spend our time is up to each of us. After we spend our 6 to 8 hours daily on sleep, we are left with 16 to 18 hours to spend on a variety of things: self-care, chores, caregiving, working, learning, fitness, and leisure, among others. When you include a smoking or vaping habit in the mix, you are robbed of precious time to experience life on your own terms.
According to a 2015 survey, about 70 percent of adult smokers in the United States wanted to quit. Most of them are motivated by their health, finances, loved ones, energy, freedom, or a combination of these. However, despite being motivated, obstacles to quitting are not in short supply. Triggers like coffee, alcohol, stress, household routines, nicotine cravings, and times of day whisper in their ears “smoke me…” The trigger that seems to vex people the most is boredom. What to do in those gaps between?
After coaching thousands of people across 19 years to reclaim smoke-free lives, I’ve come to understand that smoking becomes a kind of gap filler, the glue that connects the various parts of a person’s day. As smoking is reduced or eliminated altogether, people often feel as if they’re “coming unglued.” And, although people hit the time jackpot getting those 2 hours a day back, it’s not so easy figuring out what to do with their newfound time.
Our time is valuable, and reclaiming time once spent on a habit that wreaks havoc with our health and finances seems like a big win. But—the BIG BUT—it takes lots of patience and practice for people to retrain themselves to spend their time currencies in new, better ways. Time can feel like both friend and foe.
Why? Too much unstructured time can become a slippery slope of longing for one’s old “fix.” When nicotine reaches the nicotinic receptors in the human brain, it triggers a release of dopamine. Ahh… the brain’s reward pathways get lit up! Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are relieved and for a brief moment, self-imposed stress has been disrupted. This temporary sense of pseudo relief draws people back over and over again.
The GOOD NEWS is: there are lots of other things that can also give us that dopamine boost we seek, and without the serious risk of harm to our health. Things like singing, laughing, walking, dancing, playing, joyful movement, music, sunlight, sleep, meditation, connection, and affection all help to release dopamine, too. Reaching for a cigarette or your vape pen may have become your go-to dopamine booster, easier or more familiar in the moment. Over time, however, you can replace time once spent smoking with new activities that light you up.
Did you once begin your day with a cigarette? Try a new morning ritual like a walk, breath of fresh air, or short meditation. Used to have one after finishing a meal? Brush your teeth, suck on a mint, or sip some water through a straw or sports bottle. Has smoking been a reward for completing a task? Is boredom a trigger? How about enjoying an activity like drawing, woodworking, knitting, learning to play an instrument, writing in your journal, practicing yoga, or playing a game?
Removing cigarettes from your daily routine without backfilling those spaces with substitutes leaves you vulnerable to relapse. So instead, each time you practice quitting or make a quit attempt, remember to make a SUBS LIST and post it in several visible places. Visual cues become a roadmap of sorts to help you move through vulnerable moments in new ways.
So often, people blame not taking action to quit on a lack of willpower or fear of failure. But the truth is, becoming smoke or vape-free takes consistent micromovements of courage, commitment, patience, and self-compassion. Each time you embark on a habit change journey, you adopt a willingness to accept setbacks and obstacles as part of your path and to accept support from helpers.
You’ve been lighting up on the outside, and now it’s time to figure out what lights you up on the inside. Your Vincere Health Coach can help. This lifestyle shift won’t happen overnight or easily. But, if you practice a little something fresh and new each day, you will be building a strong foundation that supports and launches a new-and-improved YOU.
The average cost of a pack of cigarettes is $6.28 (National Cancer Institute), which means a pack-a-day habit adds up to $188 per month or $2,292 per year.