Bad habits and good routines – Why is it so damn hard??!?

As I sit here pondering my next blog topic and biting my nails, it occurred to me, I was actively participating in my next blog topic.  Biting my nails has been a bad habit, an awful habit actually, that I have struggled with for all of my adolescent and adult life.  Through the years I have successfully quit for as long as a year or so, only to slowly resume the habit out of stress, anxiety and pure routine.  Everything in me wants to quit and never do it again.  I have painted my nails, tried diversionary tactics like chewing gum and I even applied that toxic, off-putting and foul-tasting, gross, anti-bite nail polish (I really don’t know how else to describe the rancid taste that stuff from the 90’s had and that’s not to mention that it was probably hazardous to my health).

With all of that said, I still can’t quite figure out how to make a new routine.  The new routine being that I do not reach for my own hand to nibble on when I am spacing out, thinking, nervous or any combination of the above.  It really is a strange habit and I know I am not alone with the struggle to change it.  After a quick Google search, I discovered that researchers do not have any idea why humans do it and as many as 20-30% of adults actively bite their nails!  That is a pretty remarkable number if you think about it.  What I do know is that it may be a learned habit, just as many things are.  My mother bites her nails, while my father and husband do not.  My husband’s parents do not, which may also explain why he doesn’t and is incredibly turned off by the habit.

It’s a funny thing really – I bite my nails, however, when I see someone else engaging in the self-mutilating activity, I too am disgusted by the behavior.  If only I could continue to remember how it makes me feel to witness it when I am about to put hand to mouth (even writing that sentence grossed me out).  And that leads me to the other side of the coin.  On the one side we have bad habits and the difficulty we have in breaking them.  From biting nails to quitting smoking, habits become a part of us that are difficult, if not damn near impossible, to change.

Flip to the other side and you have good routines, the pleasant step sister to bad habits.  Just as bad habits can be a straight uphill battle to break, our healthy routines can be extremely difficult to create and implement in our lives.  How many New Year’s Day diets and exercise routines have we seen come and go with people you know?  And finally, as the most advanced species on the planet, I find it pretty remarkable that we are responsible for breakthroughs like walking on other planets and cloning creatures yet we cannot master our own bodies.  Shedding weight, from ten pounds to hundreds, or eliminating bad behaviors, like biting our nails or smoking, from our routine are real struggles that consume entire lifetimes for some people

Sometimes it makes me feel incredibly weak as a person to not be able to just change something about myself that I want to change.  I know I am not alone in having things about myself that I wish to see improve and that, in itself, is the human struggle.  Identifying your own struggle and working towards improvement, however slight it may be, is a battle worth engaging in.

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