Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Breaking Bad (Habits)

Recently my niece started biting her fingernails. This is an issue, not only because it's an unhealthy and difficult-to-break habit, but mainly because it's something I do constantly and now have to be careful to not do in front of her.

And since I can't bite my nails in front of her, I probably shouldn't do it in front of my own impressionable kid. Or do any of my other bad habits, either, like: popping my knuckles, popping my neck, picking at scabs, popping my elbows, popping my knees, biting and picking at dead skin on my lips, popping my toes (yeah, I know).

But it sucks, because breaking a bad habit is really, really hard. And I certainly don't want to be a bad influence on any of the kids in my life, but, seriously...it's so freaking hard. And, not to make excuses, but it doesn't help that OCD runs so high in my family (I was diagnosed at 14).

So, to help me out, I turned the best advice people on the internet pretending to be doctors has to offer, WebMd.

This handy article offers such helpful tips as:

"Figure out why you...engage in...any bad habit." It goes on to encourage you to identify the way you feel that makes you engage in the bad habit. Well, I feel like I've got a hangnail, so I bite it off. My knuckles and neck feel stiff, so I crack them. I guess I could get some strong scrips or a nerve block if I don't want to feel those things anymore.

"Write out a list of pros and cons of this behavior." Pros and cons, got it. Pros: hangnail goes away, neck feels loose. Cons: ratty nails, arthritis of the spinal column, niece copies me.

"Find a not-quite-as-annoying temporary or permanent replacement (for the habit)." Well, I don't remember biting my nails or cracking my knuckles quite so often back when I used to drink too heavily, but I can hardly see how cirrhosis is an improvement on old-lady-hands and not being able to maintain a manicure.

I think the solution is just to find a habit there is no way the kids will want to emulate. I know! Children hate needles! Think heroin would work?

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