For a 30 day challenge, I thought it would be a good idea to try to break a habit. In this case, the habit that has stuck with me for longer than I can remember is biting my nails and fingers.
I have tried multiple times to break it, and with many types of methods. Commonly, if you look up any tips on how to stop biting your finger nails you will undoubtebly come across the following:
- Use a bad/bitter tasting polish
- Wear fake nails
- Apply a hard resin to the nails
- Get frequent manicures
- Swap that habit with another (chew gum)
- Preventative measures (gloves/bandaids)
- Use affirmations and visualisations’
Looking back at my previous attempts, I have used a combination of these – but it hasn’t seemed to work, with hypnotherapy taking quite a hit to the wallet. The novel idea and method works well for about a week, but I find myself subconciously biting my nails before I realise what I’m doing.
Figuring it’s the start of 2020, and I’ve started documenting my progress towards challenges, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to have another crack. First, I think it is important to have a very simple understanding of how habits, specifically bad habits, are formed.
If you prefer information in a video format, then check out the video I made below!
How Negative Habits are Formed
Put really simply, negative habits (smoking, drinking, eating, biting nails, etc.) are formed as a coping mechanism brought about as a result of your life’s circumstances.
When something happens that causes stress, boredom, anxiety, disorder, uneasiness or worry, as a way for us to deal with those feelings, we develop certain habits. These habits work as a way to reduce those feelings and bring us back to a better state. Over time, this action is associated with helping us to calm down and over time this develops into a habit.
How Negative Habits are Broken
The reason habits are so difficult to break is because we have been using this coping mechanism for years, and sometimes, for 10, 20, 30, 40+ years. Just deciding that you will stop takes more than a simple thought. It can require a number of steps:
- Replacing that habit with another (good habit)
- Minimising or removing circumstances that set-off the habit
- Interrupting the pattern
- Visualising yourself succeeding
- Dealing with possible failure
My Action Plan to Stop the Habit
I have always bitten my nails, so I can’t remember how it first began or what set it off. I have noticed that when I am in a stressful situation, for example, having to rush and quickly complete a task, or when I’m bored, I tend to start biting. I have also noticed that if my fingers/nails are quite dry, this causes me to notice and try to remove any dry skin or pieces of nail. The latter is a vicious cycle, as the more I bite, the drier they get, which makes me bite more…
As a way forward, I will be undertaking the following methods and procedures over the next 30 days:
- Starting my day with visualisation and affirmations
I will visualise what I would like my fingers and nails to look like, how they feel, look, and how others will view them. My affirmation, that I will complete on a daily basis, will be: I have incredible nails and smooth, soft fingers.
- Carry around mints/chewing gum, which I will have if I feel the urge or catch myself biting
I will need to have a few boxes around in my bag, the house, at work, and in my car.
- Applying moisturiser to my fingers when needed
To keep my fingers from becoming dry, I have found that vaseline gel works the best and for the longest. Normal moisturisers tend to dry up after about 10 minutes.
- Wearing bandaids on fingers if the above steps don’t interrupt my pattern
This has worked in the past, but I sometimes forget to reapply after a shower or when needed.
- Documenting my progress on this website and being accountable to the challenge.
I will be writing a daily summary about how the day went, what went well and what didn’t. I will also be posting pictures every 5 days to see progress.
Let’s Get Started… But First, Where Do I Currently Stand?
As I’ve tried to do this before, in 2019 I took some photos of my fingers and nails to see where they have been at stages. This is quite difficult for me to post this and show people, as I feel pretty self-concious about it. Here it goes…
7 May 2019
This is pretty much what my fingers have looked like constantly. Visible signs of biting and pretty painful.
12 June 2019
Looking over some photos, this is probably the worst it has been. Even looking now I can remember how much they hurt and just how annoying the whole thing was. It pains me to see this. I remember this being in winter and I was home alone, but I think I was stressed about something – can’t really remember, whatever it was, it defintely wasn’t good for my fingers.
1 November 2019
Visibly better later in 2019 – this was after I discovered vaseline gel and I perhaps just after having a hypnotherapy session to stop biting. It was also just after I got a hard resin put on my nails at a salon – which was great for the nails, not so great for my fingers. It was good for about 2 weeks, but I fell off the rails – not as badly as above, but the biting came back.
1 January 2020
Where I am at on day 1 of 2020. You can see that it’s definitely not the worst they have been, but defintely need to make something happen.
Day 1 – 1 January 2020
This went quite well. Considering it’s the first day of 2020 and of my challenge, I found it easy to avoid biting or stop instantly if I noticed myself biting. I feel as though the daily review will help me throughout this challenge.
I noticed myself going to bite my nails/fingers whilst I was bored, but I quickly realised what I was doing and was able to stop it. I also didn’t frequently return to biting soon after. So far, I haven’t experienced the constant urge of biting my nails as I do sometimes, which persists even when I’m wearing the bad tasting nail polish and a using variety of other preventative measures. This is perhaps due to this being a very relaxing period over the New Years break, and I haven’t got any outside stress/pressure on me. I will need to re-assess this during more busy periods like when I return to work. But at the moment, it’s going well and even after 2 days I swear my skin has already started to heal.
It went well. However, due to driving to multiple Officeworks stores and them not having the item I was looking for, and it being over 40 degrees, I was quite frustrated and annoyed at the whole thing. This led to me biting my fingers a few times. I used some moisturiser and went over the visualisation and affirmations which helped. Didn’t carry bandaids on me which would have prevented it after the first time, so I’ll have to make sure I have everything on me or in my bag for when I need it.
No issues here. The time I went to bite or when I caught myself, I had some chewing gum. This worked well to stop the urge. My original plan was mints, but I’ll carry a stick of gum around as well. Nothing for the rest of the day.
My fingers and nails are looking really good 5 days in. I’ll be taking photos every 5 days for progress, with Day 5 below. Feeling very good about it at the moment. My skin is pretty dry, and recovering slowly.
Nothing particularly interesting happened today.
At work I started biting. Not a lot, but the urge was there and was pretty constant. To combat this, I went to Chemist Warehouse and picked up a few more supplies:
From left to right: Revitanail solution (very bitter), hand sanitiser with moisturiser, a cuticle remover (to ensure no dry/loose areas), and band aids. I also got a pack of eclipse mints as the replace-a-habit.
I am thinking that a few days after my challenge, after my nails have grown to a length and my skin has recovered more, I’ll go to a nail salon and get a cheap manicure to tidy them up and make them look nicer. This is actually quite a good method to help you stop biting your nails – if you plan a manicure appointment or choose a date in advance, this gives you motivation in the lead up to not bite, reinforcing you to stop.
Also, on day 30 of my challenge if it all goes well, I’m going to celebrate with a nice dinner in town. I can already visualise myself sitting at the table and taking a photo of my nice nails and fingers.
Another successful day. Now that my nails are longer, I could shape them, rather than having irregular shapes from my biting. Being able to do this really helped with motivation to keep going. Feeling really good about it this time. Again, it’s the daily reviewing and accountability with the challenge and this website that helps a lot.
This was the first day in a long time that I didn’t really bite my nails or fingers at all. At one point in the day my teeth bit down on my skin but I realised and then stopped, applied more Revitanail, more moisturiser, had a mint, and after that it was all good. My skin around my nails and my nails have really recovered a lot. Tomorrow I’ll take more photos for progress.
I’ve got nails! Another great day for this challenge. Throughout the day I reapplied the Revitanail and moisturiser. It’s definitely a habit to get into, because previously I’ve found myself put that on, but if I wash my hands then it comes off. Without reapplying it, it’s not as strong and it doesn’t really deter the behaviour as well.
I was doing a lot of video editing, which was taking a while. I wouldn’t say it was stressful, but I was needing to watch a YouTube video on how to do everything, and it was taking a long time. This caused me to bite my fingers a few times, nothing serious, but it was bringing the habit up. I did apply some moisturiser which helped, and I should have applied more of the bad tasting coating.
I noticed that my fingers were getting pretty dry today, especially in the areas where my skin is healing. I did put moisturiser on them in the morning, but around 2-3pm they were pretty dry again. Whilst I didn’t bite them, I noticed the urge increasing. Any time that I did notice my self biting, I could stop instantly, which is good, and something that has started to happen this time around. This makes me feel pretty good about the whole thing. Other times when this has happened, I have a moment of weakness and it all turns to crap. Going well this time! 3 more days until I take day 15 progress photos!
I’ve noticed now, and it’s a strange feeling, that my fingerprints have seemed to re-appear to the tips of my fingers. It’s hard to describe how it feels. And my fingertips are super smooth! My thumbs still have some repairing to do, but it appears that in the next couple of days they will look really good.’
This is going really well! I feel as though whenever I’m in a situation that in the past would have triggered me to start biting, I no longer feel that urge. Really happy about that.
Progress is going great. Skin is healing up well, and my I actually trimmed my nails slightly as they were long enough. Good times 😛 Will take photos outside next time.
Work was pretty hectic today, lots of things with deadlines. I noticed that my fingers were hanging around my mouth a few times, and a couple of times I did actually bite. To counteract this, I just made sure I reapplied some Revitanail – which ends up making my mouth taste pretty bad for the rest of the day, but it definitely helps to stop biting.
Not much to say other than it’s going really well 😀
I was watching a movie, and I noticed that the urge to bite was pretty strong. While I didn’t end up biting, I should have re-applied more Revitanail and moisturiser to make sure I didn’t accidentally ruin it. I’ve got to make sure to keep the routine in check to really establish the break of habit.
I am definitely breaking this habit. The only times I’ve gone to bite is when I’m bored, when I can feel that there is some dryness on my fingers, or when my nail has broken and it’s catching on things.
As you can see from the photos, my skin has really started to heal. The only problem at the moment is my skin being a bit dry where the skin is healing. I’m hoping that goes away sometime soon, but I expect it to take a bit of time due to the trauma it’s gone through over the past ~20 years.
I love looking at my fingers and seeing how they look now! Pretty much whenever I do anything, I always catch a glimpse of my fingers and nails and it feels great to have stopped this.
I haven’t really been continuing the visualisations and the affirmations as I did at the start of this. I’ve found that I’ve stopped this time pretty well, so I didn’t feel like I needed the extra methods. If I do bite in any way, I do then visualise and repeat my affirmation to reinforce stopping the habit.
I have been cleaning my nails/fingers with my teeth since my nails have been getting longer. However, I thought today that this probably isn’t a good idea due to it being a pretty easy precursor to accidentally bite, and I should probably keep my fingers away from my mouth to properly disrupt the habit. To stop this, I trimmed all of my nails – WITH NAIL CLIPPERS WOO!
I went camping/hiking over the long weekend. I was never bored and I was completely relaxed, so there was nothing that triggered me to bite. My fingers and nails are looking really nice now – I’d say all the methods I’m using are working. On the weekend, I kept glancing at my fingers and nails and just loving how they look. They look so much better than when I started.
Just as I thought I’d kicked this habit for good, I accidentally went back to it. Not really sure why. Once I did, I applied some revitanail and moisturiser and I didn’t continue – but the single act of biting annoyed me. I notice that I’ve still got my fingers around my mouth – not doing anything wrong but it’s more so just feeling around. This makes it easy to bite if the urge came. I may start to just apply revitanail on first thing in the morning, as a way to stop any sort of finger/mouth touching. The rest is going well though, so close to day 30!
The day went well! Didn’t bite, lathered my fingernails up with revitanail, applied some moisturiser, had my mints and my nails were long enough to properly shape them. Feeling amazing.
Last day of the challenge! My fingers and nails are looking incredible! Really happy with what I’ve accomplished for this. The pictures below say it all – contrast those back to January 2020 or even my earlier photos from 2019 and there is a big change! I’ll be celebrating with dinner out on Saturday 1st of February having completed this challenge.
Before and after photos, from Day 1 to Day 30:
Now the goal is to just keep this up. I feel as though I’m in a good place at the moment, I just need to make sure I stick to my plan. If I slip up, I need to make sure that I follow through with all of the methods that worked.
I have a few 30 day challenges ongoing right as we speak. I hope this account of my challenge helped you in some way. Perhaps you discovered a method that you haven’t tried yet or think this would be useful for someone who was in a similar situation as I was. Either way, I’ve had fun!
Until next time. Challenge your life!