Nine Day Quit Guide

Take a step for health and quit tobacco! Use the Nine Day Quit Guide below to help with quitting and making other healthy changes.

Each day’s message has three components:

  1. Actions to take;
  2. Resources for quitting; and
  3. Ideas and insights that may help you cut back or attempt to quit.

Talking with your healthcare provider about your plans to quit smoking may be helpful, and this could be important if you have certain medical or mental health conditions, or if you take certain medications.

Call your provider and discuss any concerns you may have and learn about the resources your provider offers.Congratulations on every step you take!

Action Step

Start delaying the first cigarette in the morning. Recent research indicates that waiting 30 minutes or more may help reduce cravings for nicotine throughout the day.

  • Identify and cut out the cigarettes you don’t “need.” You may smoke some cigarettes because it’s been a while since your last one and you have a real physical craving to smoke – leave those cigarettes in, for now.
  • Cut out the extra one you have just because it’s something to do, or because you always light up when the phone rings. It may still feel awkward not smoking during these times, but you can honestly say it won’t put you into a “nic attack.”
  • This action begins “retraining” your mind regarding the automatic behavior of smoking, helping you to whittle away at the habit and giving you a bit more control. It also helps you reduce your nicotine intake, possibly lessening the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal when you quit.

Resources for Quitting

Read one piece of literature or webpage about quitting. Here are some resources to get you started:

Gaining Insight

  • Without self-interest in and/or changing other health behaviors (especially if addiction is involved), the change may be a lot tougher. In other words, making the change because it interests you and because it will benefit you may be a necessary foundation for success. Use this activity to explore your own self-interest in quitting and/or changing other health behaviors.
  • Imagine waking up tomorrow as a person who doesn’t smoke (or, if you aren’t someone who smokes, substitute: “a person who has made that health behavior change you’ve wanted”). Your thoughts and experiences are those of someone who doesn’t smoke. Your world is the world of someone who doesn’t smoke. Now, you don’t know that the miracle happened because you were asleep. So, when you wake up tomorrow morning, what would you first notice that would let you know that something significant had changed?
  • Notice what you are doing and how life is different. What do you notice? How is life better? What difference would being someone who doesn’t smoke (or eats healthier, or exercises regularly) make?
  • Not everything may be positive in this image. That’s OK, but do you see a self-interest that makes the effort worth it?
Action Step

Take at least one break that doesn’t include smoking today.

  • Try walking briskly for 10 to 15 minutes, doing some stretches and deep breathing, or anything else that is healthy and keeps you from smoking during the break.
  • Building in these smoke-free activities will help you transition when you quit. Think of it as having a “tool box” of resources you can use instead of smoking. You want to find the tools you’ll really use and get yourself familiar with using them before your first day as a nonsmoker.

Resources for Quitting

  • Visit Colorado’s free Internet resource, Colorado QuitLine, for people who want to quit smoking.
  • You may want to call the QuitLine, a free phone coaching resource staffed by experts in tobacco cessation, at 800-QUIT-NOW.

Gaining Insight

  • Make a list of the benefits of not smoking (tip: use the answer to the question about waking up as a person who doesn’t smoke from the “Gaining Insight” section from the eighth day before quit date about to help you do this.
  • Don’t forget about all the things you can do more freely as someone who doesn’t smoke.
  • Keep this list with you throughout the day and add to it. For bonus points, share your list with someone who cares about you and be open to their feedback.
Action Step

Continue to “break up” your smoking pattern and assess if you might benefit from nicotine replacement therapy or other pharmaceutical aid.

Do something that works to break up or “rewire” your pattern of smoking. Here are some examples:

  • Switch to another brand of cigarettes. You can change altogether or alternate your usual brand with one that you like less.
  • Change the location where you typically smoke. If you smoke outside on your front porch, try smoking in the backyard.
  • Rather than keeping cigarettes with you all the time, find a place to put them so you have to make an effort to get them (e.g., in the glove compartment of your vehicle).
  • Switch the times you smoke – if you smoke before getting in the shower in the morning, smoke afterwards instead.
  • Find a place where you usually smoke, and make smoking “off-limits” there – like the living room or kitchen.
  • As you begin making changes, you may want to consider if pharmaceutical help may be right for you. There are many new options for nicotine replacement that are available without a prescription. There are also medications that your healthcare provider can prescribe. For a list of options and help with assessing whether the resources may help you, see Colorado QuitLine.

Resources for Quitting

Get inspired to add physical activity into your day; view the CDC’s Physical Activity Guide for information about the benefits of physical activity, which includes plenty of ideas for incorporating simple actions that can reduce stress, improve health and help you feel much better.

Gaining Insight

Today’s insight is about “wanting to quit” versus “being prepared/ready to quit.” Looking at the scale below, select a number that best represents how you feel about wanting to quit:

  1. Don’t want to at all
  2. Want to, but not now
  3. Want to, but have some concerns
  4. Really want to quit
  5. Ready to GO!

The good news is that your desire (wanting) to quit or change may come and go,  and you can still make the change. Think about it: there are times you do things you don’t really want to do right now, because you know that there will be a payoff that makes it worthwhile. So, “wanting” to quit is not the key ingredient to being successful; willingness to move forward may be the key!

Now, imagine you are one point higher on the scale. For example, if you are a three right now, what does a four look like? How would you know you were a four, rather than a three? What are you doing, thinking, experiencing at the four that lets you know you have progressed from a three? (For example, if you know that at a four you have let others know you are planning to make a change, this may be the next step to help you be ready). Wanting to quit is a start, but it doesn’t get you across the finish line.

Action Step

Begin gathering your support resources. Identify people you’d like to have as support for quitting – let them know you are planning to quit and ask them to help in specific ways.

  • Sharing your intentions to go smoke-free or make other changes may help you stick with your commitment. It may also help you find support from others when you need it most.
  • Consider the specific kinds of support you might need and ask certain people to help you. For example, if you know you smoke less when you’re with others, you may want to ask a certain friend to spend extra time with you during challenging times. You may want to vent or share your feelings about quitting and need someone who will listen and not attempt to advise you or fix the situation. Thinking ahead about the kind of support you may want can help immensely.
  • Another supportive activity is to create an “Island of Tranquility” for yourself.
    • For some, smoking is relaxing. It takes you away from the throes of a stressful circumstance, it gives you time to think, time to breathe (even if you’re breathing in smoke), and something to do that can be a calming ritual – a little island of tranquility.
    • Find a peaceful image in your mind and practice going there throughout the day. For help with this, see the Resources section below.

Resources for Quitting

The power of our thoughts and self-talk cannot be overestimated when it comes to making a personal change. Some smokers who quit successfully have suggested using prayer or meditation as mindful practices that can help through challenging times.

There are many great stress management books and websites, and we suggest doing a search if you’re interested. One site we found on the subject of mental imagery helps explain the value of this tool:

  • Imagery and Mental stress management
    (Tobacco-Free Jeffco neither endorses nor supports the authors of this site or its content, but provide it as an example of available resources).

Gaining Insight

Should I or shouldn’t I – how do you deal with mixed feelings about quitting? During the change process, we may go through periods of ambivalence – part of us wants to change and part of us wants to keep doing what we’re doing. Resolving some of the uncertainty may be key to moving forward with plans. The following activity may help with this:

Using the groupings below, write your thoughts for each area. Once you’ve completed everything, follow the instructions below to walk through options for resolving your ambivalence. If you are working on something other than quitting, just change the words to fit your situation.

A – Benefits of Smoking; Reasons to Continue Smoking

B – Benefits of Quitting; Reasons to Quit Smoking

C – Negatives of Smoking; Reasons to Quit Smoking

D – Negatives of Quitting; Reasons to Continue Smoking

Group A: the “benefits” in this box are the primary reasons you continue to smoke and can fall into a couple of categories:

  • things you really need in your life, and
  • things you really like, but can give up or find a replacement for.

Circle all the items in this list that you believe are important for you to have. Next to the item, note any other source for this benefit.

  • For example, if you wrote “helps me manage stress” as a benefit and you’ve circled it, you could write, “catching myself in the process of getting stressed out and taking a break sooner,” or “do some deep breathing and peaceful mental imagery.”

For the remainder of the items, ask yourself if you can give this benefit up or replace it with something.

  • For example, if you wrote “enjoy a cigarette with morning coffee,” you might work on drinking coffee without smoking – or try drinking a different beverage that has a weaker link to lighting up.

Group B: the importance of the items in this group is they can serve as your motivators to keep working on quitting. The more potent they are, the better.

  • For example, you could write, “save money,” but it may be more powerful to figure out just how much you’ll save and what you’ll do with your money: “will save $720 in six months – enough to pay for a great get-away weekend.”

Group C: like the items in B, this group can help keep you moving in the right direction. When you have a thought that a cigarette might be nice, or you have a slip up, look at what you’ve written here to boost your resolve to get back on track.

Group D: the items in this group are barriers to quitting and need to be addressed. Similar to the items in A, these items can fall into a couple of categories:

  • things you may have a tough time getting through without a resource to deal with;
  • things you can get through with little patience, willingness, etc.

The important thing is to list all the barriers you know are concerns for you.

  • For example, if you wrote, “not being effective at work while having withdrawals,” you may want to plan now for things to do to combat this barrier.
    • You could consider using an over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy.
    • You might also consider doing something different at work during the first week of being smoke-free.
    • Plan on work activities that don’t set you up for frustration – maybe even consider taking a few days off.

Keep filling in the different areas as you make new discoveries! 

Action Step

Make a list of healthy foods you will add to your diet starting today. Incorporating healthy foods now can save you from the pitfall of unwanted weight gain.

  • Quitting doesn’t have to lead to weight gain. In fact, with increased energy and a new experience of health, most people find it easier to be active and eat better.
  • Throughout the first few weeks of quitting, you may notice a desire to snack more. This can be challenging if you don’t have a plan or some reliable and “healthier” low-fat options.
    • First, consider adding at least one fruit or vegetable to your daily diet. The extra nutrients and fiber will help you during withdrawal.
    • Second, find nonfood items to distract you from the cravings you may get to put something in your mouth or your hands. Consider sugar-free gum, mints, etc. Some people find that strong flavors, such as black licorice root, cinnamon toothpicks, cloves, etc., help cut the “mouth” cravings. Ideas for things to do with your hands include squeezing a hand-strengthening ball, playing solitaire, putting on hand lotion, filing your nails, doodling, etc.

Resources for Quitting

Check out the CDC’s website, How to Quit.

Gaining Insight

Many people find that quitting is like losing a friend, and it may cause a certain sense of grief and anxiety. Think about it: for many who smoke, cigarettes have been a reliable and comforting resource for years, one they interact with many times a day, through many life experiences.

Despite being committed to quitting, some of us feel sad about letting go. If you’ve ever had an old, beat-up car that you finally got rid of and then missed, or an unhealthy relationship that you ended and started again, you might be able to relate.

It could be that “ending” the relationship for good can be more effective if you achieve closure on a deeper level.

Some people who quit have reported that doing something to “say good-bye” to the cigarettes may be a useful step in letting go permanently. Here are two ideas that some people have said worked for them:

  • Write a “thanks for the good times…it’s time to break up” letter to your cigarettes. Include the good, bad and ugly of your relationship to smoking and work on really letting go.
  • Invite loved ones over for a mock memorial service where you give the eulogy and then have a party; you can invite others to share their feelings about your quitting, too.
Action Step

Take time to plan your first day as a nonsmoker. Schedule the day to include time for supportive activities and breaks.

  • Look at your work and personal schedule and ask yourself what you can do that day to support your plan to be smoke-free.
  • Maybe there are work activities you can do that are less likely to set you up for wanting to smoke.
  • If you have a party or outing scheduled for the evening, and you know there will be alcohol served, along with friends who smoke, it makes sense now to think about what you can do to stick to your commitment so you’re not taken off guard, without a plan, in the moment.

Resources for Quitting

Visit your local bookstore to browse audio tapes, videos and books written cessation experts and other people who’ve successfully quit.

Gaining Insight

  • A stumbling block for some people is the mental trap of the fear of failing. People may psyche up for quitting, do some things to prepare, tell loved ones their quit date, and then quit for some period of time. And then they have a slip.
  • The slip is a one-time event and doesn’t need to lead to a return to smoking; but for most of us, it does. This has to do, in part, with how we define and respond to “failure.”
  • Technically, when a slip occurs, the plan or process failed, but most of us feel like we are the failure, which sets up certain avoidance behaviors and may limit our ability to try new approaches (hoping for the one magic bullet that’s got to be out there!) For some of us, “failure” causes shame, which can actually lead to feelings of hopelessness and more smoking.
  • How we think about the process of working toward a goal can make a big difference in our experiences with success and failure.
  • Consider a professional basketball player who is working on a layup shot. A good athlete notices what does and doesn’t work with the layup. If the shot is missed, there’s an information feedback loop that lets the athlete know what to adjust for the next shot. A missed shot doesn’t mean the game or practice is over. In fact, a missed shot may lead to the very next perfect shot, if the athlete is paying attention to the feedback.
  • When scientists formulate a hypothesis and conduct research, they pay careful attention to what’s working and what’s not. Major breakthroughs have been produced out of failed experiments, because scientists take note of what went wrong and set a new course for the experiment.
  • Detectives look at the clues, especially those that don’t add up, in order to fit all the pieces together.
  • Now think about the process of quitting:
    • If quitting is more like a process than an event, do you have any greater freedom to experience failure along the way?
    • If you take on quitting as an athlete, scientist or detective would, what might you do differently? How might you view failure?
    • Imagine that you have the freedom to try new things and experiment with the process of quitting. What might you do differently in working on quitting?
Action Step

Plan for your last cigarette and eliminate tobacco materials, and other cues to smoke, from your environment.

  • Think about when you want to smoke your last cigarette and what atmosphere you want to create for that final smoke.
  • Most people find that clearing old tobacco materials (butts, lighters, stale packs, etc.) and eliminating all the cigarettes, except for those you’ll smoke between today and when you quit, can be helpful. You may also want to clean things that carry a residual smell of tobacco – maybe schedule a curtain, carpet or upholstery cleaning or have your teeth cleaned and get a facial.

Resources for Quitting

Have you found someone to be a support for you around quitting? In addition to the people you work with, there may be others who’d love to support you. If you’d like some “online” encouragement, there are websites and chat rooms where encouragement is shared.

Gaining Insight

  • The money, relationships and years of life saved by quitting are immeasurable. Also hard to measure is the impact quitting has on the personal experience of well-being that many people attain.
  • Successful quitters are much more likely to come to some important realizations about themselves and have a great deal of energy and attention available to give to other important areas of their lives once they’ve quit.
  • In short, quitting may be the beginning of a new and positive life-experience. A Vision Collage is an exercise to explore the possibilities of this:
    • Create a collage using pictures or images cut from magazines.
    • The theme of the collage is “who you are and what your life is about” as a person free from smoking.
    • You can create a vision for yourself and then select pictures consistent with the vision, or select pictures that attract you.
    • After assembling them into the collage, see what the whole picture tells you about your vision for yourself.
    • A variation of this is to create a collage depicting who you were as a person who smokes and compare it to the new vision of you.
Action Step

Tomorrow’s the big day . . . Day 1 of being smoke-free!
Whether you’re quitting just for the day, or for good, it will pay to look over your plans and consider potential rough spots.

  • Do what you can, today, to clear your schedule and environment of triggers to smoke. Most importantly, imagine yourself successfully handling unexpected situations – your computer locks up and you can’t meet a deadline at work; you’re the target of an angry outburst; you find out you’re overdrawn, etc.
  • Now imagine these types of situations occurring while you successfully deal with the pressure – without smoking. Notice what you do instead. What does it look like when you are successful during times of challenge? What are you doing? Keep an image of this in your mind – if you can imagine it, you can achieve it!
  • Here are some things to look for:
    • periods of time when you are likely to be tired, hungry, stressed or bored
    • people with whom you might interact who might trigger a desire to smoke
    • places you’ll be that prompt you to smoke

Resources for Quitting

Put your quitting support kit together and have it ready to go. For ideas for what to include think about the following:

  • what might help you keep your hands busy
  • what might keep you inspired to keep moving forward
  • what can you bring to help with the craving to smoke
  • what foods are healthy when you want to eat, rather than smoke
  • what will help you relax and feel comforted
  • what should you put your supplies in so that you can comfortably take them with you

Gaining Insight

It’s important to quit for yourself, but quitting may affect the people around you positively. This exercise will help you get in touch with the ripple effect your quitting will have on the world.

  • If you have children in your life, including friends or neighbors’ children, how might you being smoke-free affect them?
  • If you extend your life and increase your well-being, what impact will this have on your family, your friends, your work and other members of your community?
  • Think about the impact that tobacco addiction has around the county and world, taking nearly six million lives every year. How might you, being one less customer of this addictive product, help the world?
Action Step

TODAY is your first SMOKE-FREE DAY!
Whether it’s for one day or for a lifetime, have some fun, today! Celebrate being smoke-free by doing something you enjoy, makes you laugh or is just plain silly.

  • If you have a support person helping you stick to your commitment, make contact and let that person know how it’s going and what support you need for the day. Review your reasons for quitting and use your resources!
  • Plan what you will do for days 2 to 4. If you are not using nicotine replacement, withdrawal symptoms may be tougher during these days, so you may want to shore up your resources and plans for getting through challenges.
  • Remember, withdrawal is the body’s natural process for recovering from nicotine addiction. Your body takes several days to expel tobacco’s nicotine and its by-products and return to normal functioning.
  • Your body has to go through this process to break its dependence on nicotine. The more you can do to support your body’s healing process, the better. If you are using nicotine replacement therapy now, you will eventually taper off and your body will make the same adjustments, typically with minor symptoms of withdrawal.

Resources for Quitting

Did you know that after only 20 minutes, your body begins to recover from nicotine’s effects? For a web-based resource that highlights the short- and long-term benefits to your health, visit the American Lung Association website.

Gaining Insight

As one successful ex-smoker said, “Sure, there were some tough times. It was a hard two or three months. There was a lot of anguish and a deep sense of loss. But there was a lot of richness and excitement, too, a lot of laughter and a tremendous feeling of rightness and relief. There was an amazing sense of being reborn, of being given a second chance.”

What will you be saying a month from now, six months from now, a year from now? Begin shaping the story you will tell about your own triumph over tobacco.

  • Look for what works and pay attention to what doesn’t, but keep moving forward. Soon, your vision of your future as a person free from smoking will be your reality.
  • Some final thoughts:
    • Dr. Norman Vincent Peale was right when he said, “When faced with life’s hurdles, throw your heart over the bar and your body and mind will follow.”
    • And from the 2002 movie, Kate and Leopold, “The brave are simply those with the clearest vision of what is before them.”