One of the reasons it's so hard to quit smoking is that we don't realise exactly how frequently we reach for a cigarette. You may know how often you buy a new pack or have a smoking break pattern but even being aware of your smoking doesn't mean you actually notice the pace, the rate, and how long it takes for you to start craving a new one. Often, once you start paying attention to your smoking, the unbreakable instinctual addiction weakens as your deliberate, conscious mind takes over. It becomes easier to make the decision to reduce your smoking or quit entirely. If you had already decided to quit, keeping a journal can help you map your journey from five a day to five a week, to one now and then. From there, many people find it much easier to quit.
Starting a Smoking Journal
The first step to starting an effective smoking journal is to decide a medium that can stick with you (and your pack) at all times. If you choose to use your phone, pick a text editor or a list making app that is quick and easy to use. If you prefer tactile writing, get a small notepad with a pen or pencil that can clip in While it may be tempting, don't stick the notepad into your pack of cigarettes, as you might accidentally toss it when you throw the empty pack away. The goal is to keep a complete journal of every time you smoke, so don't give yourself a reason to start counting from zero again.
Day to Day
The next decision is how you will separate up your data. We suggest a break between the days so you can quickly and easily see the amount you smoke each day. Then decide how you will separate weeks. You can use weekends like the standard format or count seven days from the day you started keeping the journal, whichever works best for you. If you're using a phone app, make sure it can handle the breaks between days, weeks, and possibly months, so you get the full benefit of the statistics you're collecting.
Start Noting When You Smoke
Every time you light a cigarette, make sure to make a note in your journal. How you keep your notes will determine how much information you get from the experiment. For some, a simple tally point system is enough to show just how often they smoke in a day, but the most effective system is usually more detailed. We suggest that you note not only the number of times but the time of day and possibly where you choose to smoke as well. This might look like:
✔️ 7:30AM - Commute - Traffic Jam
✔️ 10:15 AM - Morning Break - Smoking Area
✔️ 12:45 PM - Lunch Break - Smoking Area
Keeping notes in this way will show you not only how many times you smoke but how often, where you go, and possibly even clue you in as to your smoking triggers. If you smoke on every break at work but see that most of your evenings at home are nearly cigarette-free, you may have found an unhealthy, if quiet, way to handle your work stress. If you realize that you smoke much more often at home when a particular relative is visiting, this is another clear sign. When you understand both how often and why you smoke, it will become a lot easier to address your real motivations for smoking beside the chemical addiction.
Using the Journal To Quit
If you already want to quit, a smoking journal can be one of the most powerful tools available to you. Wanting to quit means that you have probably begun thinking about at least some of the negative consequences of smoking. The first week you keep track, don't worry too much about reducing your smoke breaks unless that's what you feel. At the end of the week, flip back through your records and think about the days you had regarding your cigarette intake. You might be surprised just how often you reach for the pack and lighter. This is often enough of a realization to motivate already quitting smokers to reduce the smoke breaks and eventually stop buying packs altogether.
If you've clearly been solving a stress, emotional, or even medical problems with smoking, ask yourself if there's a better, more permanent, ways to handle these issues. If you've been smoking because you're bored, consider picking up a new phone game habit instead or entertaining yourself by looking for a better job. By taking a week or more worth of detailed notes, your patterns, reasons, and dependencies will become clear, and you can solve your problems with methods other than walking away to smoke. In fact, it's important to remember that you can still walk away from situations that would normally drive you to smoke and you don't have to pull a cigarette to duck from an unpleasant situation.
A smoking journal works in different ways for different people. If your goal is simply to decrease your frequency of smoking, the journal will show you how often you reach for the pack and help you gain the conscious awareness and control to reduce that number. If you're looking to deal with the reasons you always seem to backslide out of a quit, a smoking journal can clue you in on when and why you smoke, not just that you do so often. By keeping a smoking journal, you learn more about yourself and through that knowledge gain the ability to make better, more intentional and beneficial decisions.
Check out our Ebook "13 Smoking Triggers" to find out more about yourself or contact us to discover our quit support program!