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Health & Balance

3 Easy Steps to Breaking Bad Habits

Think bad habits like nail biting and knuckle cracking are hard to break? Experts offer simple solutions.
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Step No. 3: Bait and Switch

Once you realize when and why you are biting your nails, cracking your knuckles, or engaging in any other bad habit, the next logical step is to find a not-quite-as-annoying temporary or permanent replacement for it.

"If you are a nail biter, try gum," Jaffee says.

"For throat clearing, the competing response may be some sort of slow exhaling because it is impossible to do that and clear your throat at same time," Claiborn says. "Develop a way of breathing whenever you feel the urge to clear your throat. You can see some changes in a very short period of time. There will be a major reduction in throat clearing within days."

If knuckle cracking is your way of coping with stress, Wolfe, says, "Try getting your hands in a position where you won't be able to crack your knuckles. Or stroke the fabric of your sleeve, doodle, or do something else with your hands." 

Meditation may also help break bad habits, she adds. Once you have identified the triggers, you can do meditation to distract yourself next time you are in a trigger situation. 

Another tactic involves placing a large rubber band around your wrist, says Farrell. "Every time you become aware that you are [engaging in a bad habit], pull it back and allow it to snap so it creates a discomfort," she tells WebMD.

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Reviewed on November 16, 2007

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