Nail-biting is a nasty habit – everybody knows that. Nobody wants to see another person chewing on their nails, and having your fingers in your mouth increases your risk for getting sick, especially during cold and flu season. But despite the negative consequences, nail-biting is very common – about one out of five people does it. If you’re one of them, these tips can help you kick the habit once and for all.
1. Figure out why you’re biting your nails.
Some people bite their nails when they feel anxious. Others just like having something to do with their hands. Pay attention to when you bite your nails and how you feel when you do it. Once you know what’s triggering your urge to chew, you’ll be able to figure out an effective strategy for stopping.
2. Keep your hands busy.
You can’t chew your nails while your hands are occupied. Find something you like to fiddle with and keep it on your desk or in your purse. Need ideas? Try silly putty, a fidget cube or spinner, or a Rubik’s cube. If you knit or crochet, carry a small project with you. Even wearing a chunky bracelet can give you something to do with your hands.
3. Keep your nails short.
If your nails are long, you’ll be constantly tempted to bite them, especially if they break or snag on things. Reduce the urge to chew by keeping your nails clipped as short as you can. You can grow them longer again once you’ve stopped wanting to bite them.
4. Paint your nails.
It’s easy to bite your nails when they look scraggly. But if your nails are trimmed, neat, and freshly painted, you’ll probably think twice before you mess up your manicure. For an extra deterrent, visit the drugstore and pick up a bottle of nail polish that tastes bad.
5. Stop a little at a time.
If going cold turkey is too hard, try cutting down on your nail-biting gradually. For instance, give yourself permission to bite all your nails except your thumbnails. After a week or so, stop biting the nails on your index fingers as well. Keep going until the habit is completely broken.
6. Be persistent.
Most people don’t manage to break a bad habit on their first try, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to keep biting your nails forever. Persistence is much more important than iron willpower. If you slip up and bite your nails again, forgive yourself and move on. Over time, your relapses will become less and less frequent – and eventually, you’ll realize that you don’t bite your nails at all anymore. It’s not easy to stop biting your nails, but if you’re determined, you can leave the habit behind. Why not make a commitment to quitting today?