10 Things That Helped Me Finally Quit Smoking

Quit Smoking Tips from Leo Babauta

Leo Babauta. Karen Walrond

Leo Babauta, a member of our Smoking Cessation forum, wrote these tips up to share with the readers of his excellent blog, Zenhabits. Geared toward helping people help themselves, Leo's site does an outstanding job of inspiring a person to try, and the quit tips below reflect his ability to motivate.

Thanks for sharing, Leo.

From Leo:

I recently celebrated my 2-year anniversary of quitting smoking. Well, of finally quitting.

Like most smokers, I had tried to quit smoking many times and failed. But this quit attempt stuck, and I'd like to share the top 10 things that made this quit successful when the others failed.

1. Commit Thyself Fully

Looking back on the quits that failed, I know I was only half into it. I told myself I wanted to quit smoking, but I always felt in the back of my mind that I'd fail. I didn't write anything down. I didn't tell everybody (maybe my wife, but just her). This time, I wrote it down. I wrote down a quit plan. I blogged about it. I made a vow to my daughter. I told family and friends I was quitting. I went online and joined a smoking cessation support forum. I had rewards. Many of these will be in the following tips, but the point is that I fully committed, and there was no turning back. I didn't make it easy for myself to fail.

2. Make a Plan

You can't just up and say, "I'm gonna quit today." You have to prepare yourself: Plan it out.

Have a system of rewards, a support system, a person to call if you're in trouble. Write down what you'll do when you get an urge to smoke. Print it out. Post it up on your wall, at home and at work. If you wait until you get the urge to figure out what you're going to do, you've already lost. You have to be ready when those urges come.

3. Know Your Motivation

When the urge comes, your mind will rationalize. "What's the harm?" And you'll forget why you're doing this. Know why you're doing this before that urge comes. Is it for your kids? For your wife? For you health? So you can run? Because the girl you like doesn't like smokers? Have a very good reason or reasons for quitting. List them out. Print them out. Put it on a wall, and remind yourself of those reasons every time the urge to smoke hits.

4. Not One Puff, Ever (N.O.P.E.)

The mind is a tricky thing. It will tell you that one cigarette won't hurt, and it's hard to argue with that logic, especially when you're in the middle of an urge. And those urges are super hard to argue with. Don't give in. Tell yourself, before the urges come, that you will not smoke a single puff, ever again. Because the truth is, one puff will hurt. One puff leads to a second, and a third, and soon you're not quitting, you're smoking. Don't fool yourself. A single puff will almost always lead to a recession. Do not take a single puff!

5. Join a Forum

One of the things that helped the most in this quit was an online forum for people quitting tobacco. You won't feel so alone when you're miserable.

Misery loves company, after all. Go online, introduce yourself, get to know others who are going through the exact same thing, post about your crappy experience and read about others who are even worse than you. Best rule: Post before you smoke. If you set this rule and stick to it, you will make it through your smoking urge. Others will talk you through it, and they'll celebrate with you when you make it through your first day, day two, three, four, week one and beyond. It's great fun.

6. Reward Yourself

Set up a plan for your rewards. Definitely reward yourself after the first day, and the second and the third.

You can do the fourth if you want, but definitely after week one and week two. And month one and month two. And 6 months and a year. Make them good rewards, things you'll look forward to: CDs, books, DVDs, T-shirts, shoes, a massage, a bike, a dinner out at your favorite restaurant, a hotel stay. Whatever you can afford. Even better, take whatever you would have spent on smoking each day and put it in a jar. This is your rewards jar. Go crazy! Celebrate your every success! You deserve it.

7. Delay, Delay, Delay

If you have an urge to smoke, wait. Do the following things:

  • Take 10 deep breaths
  • Drink water
  • Eat a snack (at first it was candy and gum, then I switched to healthier stuff like carrots and frozen grapes and pretzels)
  • Call your support person
  • Post on your support forum
  • Exercise

Do whatever it takes, but DELAY, DELAY, DELAY. You will make it through, and the urge to smoke will go away. When it does, celebrate! Take it one urge at a time, and you can do it.

8. Replace Negative Habits with Positive Ones

What do you do when you're stressed? If you currently react to stress with a cigarette, you'll need to find something else to do. Deep breathing, self-massage [for] my neck and shoulders and exercise have worked wonders for me. Other habits, such as what you do first thing in the morning or what you do in the car or wherever you usually smoke, should be replaced with better, more positive ones. Running has been my best positive habit, although I have a few others that replaced smoking.

9. Make it Through Hell Week, then Heck Week and You're Golden

The hardest part of quitting is the first three days. If you can get past that, you've passed the nicotine withdrawal stage, and the rest is mostly mental, but all of the first week is hell, which is why it's called "hell week." After that, it begins to get easier. Second week is heck week and is still difficult — but not nearly as hellish as the first. After that, it was smooth sailing for me. I just had to deal with an occasional strong urge, but the rest of the urges were light, and I felt confident I could make it through anything.

10. If You Fall, Get Up, and Learn From Your Mistakes

Yes, we all fail. That does not mean we are failures or that we can never succeed. If you fall, it's not the end of the world. Get up, brush yourself off and try again. I failed numerous times before succeeding. But you know what? Each of those failures taught me something. Well, sometimes I repeated the same mistakes several times, but eventually I learned. Figure out what your obstacles to success are, and plan to overcome them in your next quit attempt. And don't wait a few months [...] before trying again. Give yourself a few days to plan and prepare, commit fully to it and go for it!


This is the most important tip of all. I saved it for last. If you have a positive, can-do attitude, as corny as it may sound, you will succeed. Trust me. It works. Tell yourself that you can do it, and you will. Tell yourself that you can't do it, and you definitely won't. When things get rough, think positive! You can make it through urges to smoke. You can make it through Hell week. And you can. I did. So have millions of others. We are no better than you, or in my case, worse. Make it happen!

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