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How to Stop Biting Your Nails

Tips chewed to bits? Make your mom proud and stop using your fingers as chew toys this year.

Paint Your Nails

According to clinical and social psychologist Lynn O’Connor, most nail-biters don’t even realize when they’re gnawing. But if you want to stop, you have to realize when you’re actually doing it. Which is where nail polish comes in. But we’re not talking about OPI’s new shade of gray, we’re talking about a clear polish (yep, guys can wear it too) that seems harmless enough until you chomp on that hangnail. Yep, these polishes -- found in the medicine, not cosmetic aisle -- at the drugstore are designed to help nail -biters quit. Paint it on, and you’ll get a bitter-tasting reminder of your resolution.

Cover 'em Up

If you’re wearing gloves, you can’t bite your nails (in case you couldn’t figure that one on your own). But stay with us -- we actually have a point here. O’Connor says that the majority of nail-biting often happens at home, so consider wearing a pair of gloves while chilling in front of the TV or surfing the web. (You can even treat your paws to a deep conditioning by smothering them in hand lotion before putting on a pair of white cotton gloves to seal the moisture in.) Sure, your partner might tease you a bit for wearing the rubber dish gloves to bed, but it’s a great way to make you more aware of your habit -- without nasty nail polish surprise.

Do Something Else

As is the case with any other compulsive habit, once you’re forced to pay attention to when you bite (or get a mouthful of mitten again), you can identify when you’re most likely to do it -- when bored, stressed or working -- and come up with a plan for what you’ll do instead. Translation: Swap one habit for another, but this time pick a positive (or at least neutral) behavior. So next time you catch yourself biting your nails during an episode of Real Housewives, pick up some knitting needles or a stress ball to play with. If long meetings set you off, start taking notes or even doodle (we won’t tell your boss). Keep working at it -- recognizing the behavior and replacing it with another -- until you automatically reach for a pen or knitting needle instead of your nails.

Nestpert: Lynn E. O’Connor, Ph.D., is a clinical and evolutionary psychologist, professor at the Wright Institute, and director of the Emotion, Personality and Altruism Research Group.

-- Erin van Vuuren

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