When we are growing up, we learn a lot of things from our family, friends and our society. Much in attitude, behaviour and habits develop based on our experiences. These things are the key components of our nature, they make us who we are and how well-mannered, or otherwise, we are in the society.
So how do we develop habits? Well, habits are actions that we do regularly without thinking about them. They are so ingrained in our daily life that we often don’t even realise we’re doing them. Some habits, like brushing our teeth daily, combing hair, finishing our meal and more, are good for us and help keep our bodies healthy.
Other habits, like nail-biting, nose-picking, chewing loudly, or cracking knuckles, are bad for us and can have negative impacts on our lives, physically as well as mentally. While some bad habits are simply a phase that we grow out of with time, others can persist into adolescence and beyond. These bad habits can be difficult to break, but it is important to try to curb them now. Not only are they unappealing to others, but they can also be harmful to our health. For example, nail biting can lead to infections, and nose picking can cause nosebleeds.
In this article, we will discuss some tips on how to break a few of these nasty habits. However, it is important to remember that it takes time and effort to change. So, be patient and persistent!
One rule of thumb!
Always keep a tissue paper or handkerchief with you. It can be of great use when you are coughing, sneezing, burping, nose-picking and for various other cleaning purposes. Besides it also shows you are careful about your hygiene.
Biting or picking at nails
This is one of the most common childhood habits. And sadly, this habit is often found in adults, too. Both genders appear equally prone to biting or picking their nails. Nail biting or picking, is a compulsive behaviour that can result in dry, damaged or cracked skin. If it remains persistent, first the nails go pale from the edges, later swelling starts. And, as a person bites more, infectious germs find their way in from the cracked skin, resulting in pus that oozes out and can get even more severe.
Nail-picking and nail-biting could be a response to anxiety. But it could also be as simple as you unconsciously copying your best friend doing it.
“Sometimes, it can be just a habit with nothing much underneath and those can be especially hard to break,” says Chicago-based licensed therapist Rachel Kazez.
How to curb it:
• Whether in stress or not, if you are a girl, apply nail polish, a transparent one, so that it doesn’t become a problem at school.
• For both boys and girls, get your hands engaged in playing with a toy when not in school, like Rubik’s cube, squishy balls, etc.
• You can chew on a gum, eat fennel seeds and Google images of nail-biting results on fingers, if you are really determined to break your habit. I am sure the images will be enough to stop you from bringing your fingers to your mouth.
• Make a goal. Let’s say, for a week or a month you won’t let your fingers reach your mouth. Reward yourself every other day, and even if you have controlled it once in a day, it is a positive sign that you are controlling something bad.
• For those interested in art and creativity, you can make a journal. This is a great way to hold yourself accountable to jot down your thoughts at the end of each day.
Picking your nose
Imagine a little boy or a girl, picking his/her nose continuously in front of you and then eats it or hands you something with the same hand. Your reaction will be quite similar to “Eww”, “Yuk!” Yes, this is also one of the nasty habits a child develops in the early years of life and can carry throughout his life.
Mostly, the person is unaware of the ‘eww factor’, so he/she carries on the routine work with the same hand without washing it!
Our nose produces nasal mucus to keep the linings of our nose and sinuses moist, it traps dust and other particles we inhale and many other significant functions. However, we always need to clean the mucus, but not in public. Some kids develop a habit of picking their nose, whether there is a need for it or not.
How to tackle this habit?
• First of all, you don’t need to clean it in front of everyone. Always go to the washroom, where you can clean your nose and wash your hands after it.
• If it is really important and there is no place you can go and clean, just take a tissue paper and turn your face towards the side, then clean so that it doesn’t give others a bad feeling seeing you do it.
• If your sibling has the habit of nose picking, point out immediately and hand him/her a wet or dry tissue. Children always pick up things quickly, it all depends on how they are being told to do it.
It is very common to see people spitting out on roads and public places. Some people have a medical condition in which their mouth produces too much saliva, so they have a frequent need to spit it out. But not everyone has this condition. I have seen many kids following the same ritual of spitting, which they have seen their elders do.
Let’s accept that it is not a good habit. Why should you spit if there is no need? And that too in public! If you really feel like spitting, just go to the washroom and spit in the washbasin or find a waste bin.
Burping out loudly!
Having a full meal and then belching out is normal for the body to release gases; however, sometimes, people enjoy making the sound as loud as they can.
Some of you may agree with me, that when they make a loud sound, people around them laugh out and don’t disapprove of it. Consequently, children can think that burping loudly is a fun thing, and everyone enjoys hearing it.
However, this habit is not acceptable, though it may be laughed at inside the house to some extent, it could be of real embarrassment in public when it cannot be controlled, as you have become habitual of making a loud sound.
Moreover, burping is accompanied by odours, which aren’t very pleasant to everyone around. The burping sound is considered rude, just as people are embarrassed when their stomach makes rumbling sounds when they’re hungry or have an upset tummy. Apart from the abrupt ones, most burps can be controlled, by holding breath and releasing the gas from the mouth slowly.
So burping is natural, but the sound and odour it produces can be awful for others around. Try to cover your mouth as much as possible, and once you are done, say, “Excuse me”, when in public.
Sneezing and coughing
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we all learnt about the significance of face masks, as they cover our nose and mouth to stop the spread of germs and inhalation of germs from outside. The safety protocols also involved covering our mouth with an arm or an elbow while coughing and sneezing. It was also advised to wash hands, repeatedly, some major factors to getting rid of this deadly virus. Had people cared for such basic manners before the pandemic, it wouldn’t have spread so badly.
Sadly, and unbelievably, many adults and kids still cough or sneeze without covering their mouth, spreading the germs and potential illnesses into the air. There are people who sneeze while turning their face to the other side, but without covering their mouth, while others don’t even bother to even turn their face away from others.
These are bad manners as well as bad habits. So cover your mouth whenever you feel like sneezing and coughing. Point out to your friends when they are not covering, remind them about the potential hazard of spreading various germs. If everyone does this, fewer illnesses will spread in schools and beyond.
Chewing things loudly
How many of you have witnessed your friends, siblings or other family members to bite, chew, crunch and slurp loud while having their meal? Or are you the one doing it?
If you have developed this habit, despite being told by parents not to do it, it can make people cringe away from you.
Chewing loudly is often done unknowingly, and the habit remains throughout your lives, if not pointed out and corrected at the early stage. So if someone else is doing it, just point out politely, but if you are the one making all the noises, then ask your parent or sibling to point out to you whenever you are eating with them.
If you don’t have anyone around, and you are in charge of yourself, eat slowly and close your mouth while having the morsel. For a few days, you will have to be more cautious while eating, but after a week, you will become accustomed and you won’t even know when you start eating without making a sound.
Swearing or using bad language
These days, many youngsters are very active in cyberspace. Most of their day is spent on computers, tablets, or mobile phones with their online friends from around the world and are doing various activities together, such as playing games online, etc. Every culture and every family has a different set of rules, if something is acceptable to them, it doesn’t mean it will be acceptable everywhere, this is where you need to be very careful.
Under the influence of others, you may think that if you use a swear word, you will look cool or fit in socially. Or maybe you will become part of a particular group, and you will be considered a funky, cool dude!
Well, it is important to remember that such words are never acceptable. In fact, in almost all cultures and societies, swear words and bad language are never considered a cool thing. If you think your friend is using bad language, tell him or her to stop, or stay away from such friends, because this will ultimately make you use such language.
It can be hard to break a bad habit, but the good news is that it’s usually possible to stop yourself; all you need is commitment, patience, discipline and the willingness to get better. Keep in mind that breaking a habit needs your will power. And the most important thing which comes before every other thing is recognition — if you recognise and accept that you have a bad habit and you really want to get rid of it, you must make a promise with yourself to bring an end to it now.
There is always an appropriate solution to the problem if we are willing to give it an end.
Published in Dawn, Young World, November 26th, 2022