From biting your nails to running late: 11 bad habits you can kick to the curb.
Middle-School flashback: You're slouched in your chair, biting your nails and yakking to Susan about Katie-that is, until Mrs. Anderson yells, "Girls!" Fast-forward to last night: You're slouched at your kitchen counter, frowning at your chewed cuticles and yakking on your cell phone to Susan about Katie. Where's Mrs. Anderson now?
Bad habits afflict us all. But whether your particular fixation is merely annoying, wastes time, or could actually hurt someone (like poor, long-suffering Katie), there are tricks and techniques to nip it in the bud. Of course, serious habitual behaviors might require years-and even some bona fide therapy sessions-to break. But psychiatrists, psychologists, and cognitive therapists agree that recognition is the first step. So you're already on the road to recovery and a lifetime of good posture, manicures, and trusting friendships.
The Habit: Fidgeting
Why you do it: You have excess energy, perhaps from the surge in adrenaline caused by consuming too much caffeine or sugar, and it has to come out somehow. Just ask that pen you keep clicking.
How to stop: If you're a large-triple-mocha drinker, cut back. To control energy peaks and troughs, it's also important to get enough exercise and sleep. And try converting the movement of your hands and legs into isometric exercises: Put your hands in your lap and concentrate on gently pushing your palms together. For your legs, place both feet flat on the floor and then push down. Do these exercises until the need to fidget subsides.
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The Habit: Smacking Gum
Why you do it: It's another oral fixation that serves as a security blanket when you're nervous or anxious.
How to stop: The fastest and most effective solution? Switch to hard candy. But if you really don't want to give up gum, have a friend stop you every time she hears you doing it. Then keep smacking long enough to hear yourself and recognize what an irritating sound it is. You might be embarrassed enough to stop.
The Habit: Running Late
Why you do it: The nice reason? You're a pleaser and an overdoer, packing too much in. Not so nice? Deep down, you may think your time is more important than the time of those waiting. Either way, you lack some essential time-management skills.
How to stop: When someone asks you to do something, don't accept right away. Say you'll get back to him, then decide whether you have the time. Also, figure out which tasks always seem to make you late. Maybe it's drying your hair in the morning: Time yourself to see how long it takes, then allot enough time in your routine. Tricks: Set your watch five minutes fast and build in time for unexpected delays. And always call ahead if you're running late. Not only is it gracious but the shame of making repeated calls might also be the incentive you need to be punctual.
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The Habit: Procrastination
Why you do it: It's a strategy for managing the anxiety of having to complete a task.
How to stop: Recognize that when you procrastinate, others may think you don't care about the job, and that's worse than completing something less than perfectly. One trick to get you started: Make a check out to an organization you despise and give it to a friend to hold. If you don't finish the self-assigned task by a certain date, have her mail the check. If you make yourself accountable for the consequences, it will motivate you to wrap up the task.
The Habit: Slouching
Why you do it: You may have slouched when growing up because you were self-conscious or taller than others or developed breasts before your peers, and the posture stuck. Or you might just be tired.
How to stop: Take dance lessons, Pilates, or yoga to strengthen the abdominals and upper-back muscles. A simple shoulder-shrug exercise―think of touching your shoulders to your earlobes―is an even easier way to combat slouching. Do 10 rotations forward and 10 rotations back, says Phil Haberstro, executive director of the National Association for Health and Fitness, in Buffalo. "This will raise consciousness of posture and help remind you to stand and sit tall," he says. "Regular physical activity helps combat the mental and physical fatigue that can contribute to slouching."
Read the Rest: How to Break Bad Habits