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Things to do instead of smoking

Finding things to do instead of smoking cigarettes can be easier said than done, especially when cravings are particularly strong. While there is no single solution, there are plenty of things you can do to redirect your attention and replace that cigarette.

Triggers often lead to strong cravings, which is why you’ll want to keep your mind occupied. A trigger is something that makes you want to smoke. Triggers can vary from person to person, whether it is a stressful situation, the smell or taste of coffee, or going out for a drink with friends. Thankfully, once a craving is triggered, it is only temporary. This means that it’s essential to find things to do as soon as a craving hits.

To help you break the habit of smoking and curb any cravings, this guide offers several things to do instead of smoking.

Occupy your mind and your hands

Many smokers miss the feeling of holding a cigarette when trying to quit, so make sure you keep your hands busy with other items, objects or activities. A few ways to keep your mind and your hands occupied include:

  • Take up knitting, crocheting or sewing
  • Read a newspaper or magazine
  • Read a book
  • Write a poem or short story
  • Draw, colour or paint a picture
  • Get crafty — make a card or postcard
  • Start scrapbooking
  • Do a jigsaw puzzle or crossword puzzle
  • Play video games
  • Get cooking
  • Do some gardening
  • Start journaling
  • Play an instrument
  • Use meditation or prayer beads to remain present and focused
  • Refurbish or reupholster a piece of furniture.

Remind yourself of the positives

Whether it is creating a written list or saying it out loud, remind yourself of the reasons why you want to stop smoking. These reasons don’t have to be limited to the initial or original reasons you chose to give up smoking — you could also include other benefits that come with giving up. Some may include:

  • Getting healthier
  • Saving money
  • Feeling happier
  • Reducing your friends’ and family members’ exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Regaining a stronger sense of taste and smell
  • Sleeping better
  • Smelling better
  • Healthier hair
  • Improved fitness.


Exercise is a great alternative to smoking, as is it healthy for both the body and the mind. Exercise also increases the production of ‘feel-good’ endorphins¹ and reduces symptoms in people suffering from anxiety.

Intense emotions such as stress, anger or sadness often trigger the desire to smoke. Instead of giving in to your cravings then, choosing to exercise can have a positive impact on your mental state and can help to overcome emotional triggers such as these. Here’s a few different ways you can approach exercising:

  • Go for a walk or a run
  • Go to the gym and work out
  • Ride a bike
  • Get into weightlifting
  • Start swimming
  • Try yoga
  • Join regular exercise classes.

Stay social

It is easy to feel isolated when you are making such a big life change. This is why it’s so important to stay in touch with loved ones so that you’re not tackling the journey alone. Whether you need a quick pep talk to keep yourself motivated and on the right track or a general catch up, interacting with people can do wonders for your mental wellbeing when you’re giving up smoking. Here are a few ways you can stay social:

  • Call a family member or friend
  • Write an email or hand-written letter to someone
  • Visit family members or friends
  • Spend time with non-smokers
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Play a multiplayer video game
  • Make an online group chat with friends.

Change your routine

Changing your routine can have a dramatic effect on your cravings as there are bound to be several triggers within your current day-to-day routine. Some ways you can adjust your routine include:

  • Get up earlier
  • Spend a longer time in the shower
  • Drink your regular coffee at a different time
  • Brush your teeth after every meal
  • Go outdoors more often.

Healthy snacking

It is very common for ex-smokers to use snacking as a way to curb cravings². One of the main reasons for snacking is because ex-smokers miss the feeling of having something to do with their mouth and hands. Thankfully, there are many healthy alternatives to smoking including healthy snack options. Some healthy snacking habits you can adopt include:

  • Chew sugarless gum
  • Eat crunchy vegetables such as raw carrots or celery
  • Eat nuts or seeds
  • Drink a glass of water
  • Suck on frozen fruit such as grapes or raspberries.

Clean, tidy, organise, repeat

Cleaning, tidying and organising your home is a great way to keep busy and distract yourself from your cigarette cravings. Afterwards, you’ll also derive satisfaction from a job well done. Here are a few ways you can keep a clean house to keep a clear mind:

  • Sweep and mop the floor
  • Do some laundry
  • Organise your film collection by genre
  • Organise your bookshelf by alphabetical order
  • Dust the window frames
  • Organise any loose pictures into photo albums
  • Organise your ‘junk drawer’
  • Paint a room
  • Pull some weeds in the garden
  • Plant some new flowering or vegetable plants
  • Make a bucket list for next year
  • Make a shopping list
  • Do some ‘life’ admin (sort through your paperwork or renew your health insurance)
  • Wash your dog or clean out your pet’s cage
  • Wash and wax your car
  • Clean and organise your garage
  • Create a ‘to do’ list.

It can be difficult deciding what to do instead of smoking, but hopefully these ideas will help you to find the perfect distraction to curb any cravings.

Related content

Read our useful resources: tips for quitting smoking and the damaging effects of smoking tobacco.

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