Everybody has habits that they don’t like. But breaking them is tricky!

By Heather Larson

Everybody has habits that they don’t like. But breaking them is tricky because you often do them without even realizing it. That’s why the first step to banishing those behaviors is recognizing that you do something irritating in the first place. Then, replace that practice with something that serves a similar purpose. Eventually, that’ll become a habit. Here are other expert strategies for stopping some popular practices. Photo by Thinkstock.

1. Biting Your Nails
If you hide your hands because you’ve gnawed your nails to nubs, it’s time to change that. Identify what you do before you bite your nails, suggests James Claiborn, PhD, co-author of The Habit Change Workbook: How to Break Bad Habits and Form Good Ones. Do you search for uneven or jagged edges, and then bring your hand to your mouth? Instead of moving a finger toward your face, clench your fists. Continue clenching them for a couple of minutes until the urge to bite your nails disappears. When you feel you’ve made progress changing this behavior, treat yourself to a well-deserved manicure.

2. Knuckle Cracking
Even though you may love the sensation, you probably want to stop as a courtesy to people who don’t enjoy that grating sound. Dr. Claiborn recommends relying on a “competing behavior,” a.k.a. doing something instead of cracking your knuckles. Punching your other hand or fanning out your fingers will prevent you from going to town on your knuckles. To crack down on cracking for good, keep a record of your successes-when you substituted another behavior for your bad habit-and your relapses. Figure out why you slipped, and you’ll be closer to a knuckle-cracking-free life.

3. Gum Snapping
Again, you may enjoy that gratifying sound, but it’s irritating to everyone who can hear it. So ask yourself how important it is to keep chewing gum, says Dr. Claiborn, and consider giving it up altogether. With a stick in your mouth, it’s tough to resist snapping it. If you’ll miss the pleasurable process, try deep breathing or a relaxation exercise-it may calm you just as effectively. On the other hand, if you chew gum to freshen your breath or stave off hunger, pop in a mint instead.

4. Sleeping in Your Makeup
You’re just so tired by the time you go to bed, you can’t even think about scrubbing your face. Keep cosmetic-remover wipes on your nightstand, so you can at least wipe off your makeup before you hit the hay, says Yael Varnado, MD, who answers health questions at AskDoctorV.com. Or create a bedtime ritual of using a face-washing product and moisturizer you love while soothing music plays. Need more motivation to remove makeup at night? Sleeping with it on can cause acne and wrinkles, because it dries out skin around your eyes.

Related: Discover 75 timeless beauty tips.

5. Interrupting
You’re eager to share your thoughts, but if someone else is speaking, you’ve got to bite your tongue (unless you want people to think you’re rude!). Focus on listening, says Dr. Varnado. The more intently you hear someone out, the less you’ll feel the urge to interject. “If the speaker pauses to take a breath or collect his thoughts, don’t use that as a window to speak,” she adds. Instead, breathe deeply, count to ten in your head and reflect on what the speaker said. You might also ask a pal to tactfully remind you of your goal when you lapse and celebrate your successes with you.

6. Noisy Eating
You’re aware you make sounds while you munch, but aren’t sure why. Tape-record yourself to isolate whether you hum, click or make sucking noises with your tongue. Finding the specific sounds helps you focus on the solution, which could include changing where you keep and how you move your tongue during meals, chewing more slowly, chewing smaller pieces or keeping your mouth closed while eating (which is always a good idea in front of company).

7. Being Late
Conquering this habit requires a compelling reason to be on time for appointments, says Ken Lindner, author of Your Killer Emotions. Ask yourself a few questions: Do you respect other people’s time? Do you want to appear to be rude? Or would you like to be perceived as thoughtful and professional? When you decide to change, start by visualizing your arrival at an event five to ten minutes early-feels good not to annoy others, right? Or try writing down appointments 15 minutes before the scheduled time to ensure your promptness.

8. Reading Over Someone’s Shoulder

That invades their privacy! Putting yourself in that person’s shoes could help you quash your curiosity, says Lindner. Imagine how you’d react to someone looking over your shoulder. Now picture that person calling you out in a room full of people. That kind of embarrassment will most likely push you to want to stop this behavior. If it’s not enough, sign up for a free habit-changing site, like HabitForge.com, which emails you daily to see how you’re doing.

Related: Check out these 9 bad habits that are good for you.

9. Talking Loudly on Your Cell Phone
Consider what might happen if your conversation leaked to the wrong person or got posted on Facebook or Twitter. Would you lose a big client or a close relationship? When you’re in public, you have no idea who might be listening or where bits and pieces of your conversation might end up. To remind yourself to take or make calls privately, write a trigger word or phrase on your smartphone in a place you’d see all the time, says Lindner. His word is “Mario Lopez,” one of his biggest clients.

10. Fidgeting
Moving around because you’re anxious can be seen as a sign of weakness, says Lindner. To prevent that perception, consciously think about what you’ll do with your hands in every situation before it happens. If you’re standing, put your hands at your sides and imagine they’re glued there so you can’t move them. If you’re seated at a table, place your hands on your knees under the table or fold them on top of the surface. Concentrate on not moving them until you need to use one.

Related: Learn about the best body language for any situation.

Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.


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