Tag

Nails

Browsing

Self-care is a term we are all aware of; its importance in maintaining psychological wellbeing is well-recognised, yet few of us seem to engage in it. Self-care can involve anything from cooking to cleaning, taking yourself on a walk in the woods or reading a book in the garden. However, one simple and easy way many of us could take care of minds and bodies is through the humble manicure.

However, there are far more benefits than first meet the eye when taking the time to care for your fingertips. By focusing on the intricacies of filing, shaping, moisturising and painting each individual nail encourages us to be mindful. By concentrating on the present, it gives our minds a moment to break away from the recurrent list of responsibilities we are regularly reminded of. As polish dries relish in the respite; for fifteen minutes there’s nothing to do but remain still. Even checking your phone can be difficult, which brings the rare opportunity to switch off from your online existence too.

But if this restful style of relaxation isn’t your idea of peace, painting your nails can also provide a way to bond with friends and family. Unlike other popular activities of indulgence like shopping, there is much less emphasis on body shape and size and therefore offer less of a chance to engage in unhealthy comparisons. Even when going to the salon isn’t an option, hosting virtual manicure sessions with friends could be a fun way to unwind and catch up.

The benefits of having neat and tidy nails extend further than the momentary mindfulness the process creates. Although only a small part of our appearances, our nails can in fact implicitly portray a particular image to others. Pleasantly presented hands and nails have been associated with holding a position of power and in 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported nail salons as being popular locations for meetings amongst professional women.

Much like the colours of clothes we wear, the shades we choose to place upon our nails can reflect aspects of our personality and influence our mood. Some scientists have suggested that certain colours can affect our heart rate and brain signals in different ways, and in turn how we think and feel. These biological influences seem to be reflected in our behaviour too – whether it is consciously or subconsciously. Patterns have been identified amongst nail salon customers when it comes to selecting the colour to decorate their nails with. People often opt for shades that either match or help to modify their current mood. Here are just a handful of ways your go-to nail varnish might be revealing aspects of yourself, you never even realised: 

  • Black – symbolises mystery and can be worn to share a slightly more rebellious, daring side of yourself.
  • Blue – is thought to reflect trust and peace; this sense colour’s sense of tranquillity can be soothing in times of uncertainty. 
  • Orange – is an optimistic colour, portraying someone who is self-assured and sociable. When confidence is running a little low, glancing down at your orange fingertips can instantly inject a sense of positivity! 
  • Pastels – provide a soft and delicate finish, perfect for times of relaxation, comfort and signifying new beginnings.
  • Yellow –an energetic, eye-catching shade often chosen by those who have a positive presence. This colour can be chosen when experiencing burnout, to reignite an inner energy.

In essence, there is far more than first meets the eye when it comes to manicures. Serving as an act of socialisation and self-care, the benefits of the beauty treatment can be significant for us all. If investing time and effort into your fingertips brings you joy, confidence and helps to wind-down after a busy day, there should be no shame in dedicating an evening each week to doing just this.

I’ve developed many bad habits over the years. I cannot start eating my dinner unless I’ve found a sufficiently entertaining show to watch. I haven’t gone to bed at a decent hour in years and I’ve been known to fall asleep with a slab of make-up on. But one thing that I share with 20-30% of the population is my nail-biting obsession. I’ve had short and stubby nails for as long as I can remember. Whilst I’ve always admired the long and dainty nails of my mother and friends I never understood how they could just …let them grow.

Nail-Biting or Onychophagia is a type of Body Focused Repetitive Disorder. These types of disorders are distantly related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and can be equally difficult to quit as sufferers often accept their habit and resolve that they are too weak willed to quit. Like many nail biters, I’m aware of the disgusting consequence of my habit and its subsequent impact on my physical health but alas I still persist, often subconsciously.

In an attempt to get a better understanding of my unfashionable affliction I looked deeper into the psychological causes of Onychophagia. Greek philosopher Theophrastus (c. 371 – c. 287 BC) considered the appearance of fingernails to be pivotal in the characterisation of people. Individuals possessing un-manicured nails were considered to be lackadaisical. Fast forward 2000 years later to early psychoanalytic scholars such as Freud who regarded nail-biting as a return to the oral stage of development, an aggressive motivation represented by biting and the desire for the breast represented by putting things in one’s mouth. Well.

Luckily for me, research has developed since then and psychologists now believe that nail-biting occurs for less ‘Electra Complex’ based reasons. A 2006 study by Williams, Rose and Chisholm investigating nail-biting in young adults found that the habit occurs as a result of boredom or stress suggesting that negative and unstimulating environments are a nail-biters worst nightmare. A commonly held belief is that nail-biting is a manifestation of anxiety. However, research investigating Onychophagia in children were unable to find sufficient evidence to suggest that nail-biters are any more anxious than those who do not partake. More recently, psychologists have linked nail-biting to perfectionism.

Considering that in their natural habitat my jagged and stubby nails don’t resemble anything close to perfection I found this result to rather surprising. However, research has found that people who engage in Body Focused Repetitive Behaviours like nail-biting “demonstrate maladaptive planning styles characterized by high standards and unwillingness to relax, two inherent traits in perfectionists.” Similarly, when surveying Nail-Biters, results also found that when compared to non-biters, biters have a tendency to over-plan, overwork themselves, become easily frustrated without high-levels of activity and exhibit many more traits possessed by Organizational Perfectionists.

So now I’ve figured out how I bite my nails and have resolved that I’m determined to quit, I need to consider how I’m going to fix the issue. Avoiding boredom and unstimulating environments at all costs whilst ideal, let’s face it, is pretty unrealistic. Studies have found that nail-biting occurs least often when people are reprimanded for their behaviour. As much as I’m sure my mother would relish the opportunity to give me a good telling off every time my hand ascends towards my face that won’t work because, jobs. Recent intervention research has concentrated on habit reversal, which focuses on awareness training and relaxation. However, Adesso and Norberg (2001) conclude that the long-term effects of these methods are not as impressive as the initial results.  

One thing I’ve noticed is that I am more reluctant to give into temptation when my nails are done. Like most nail-biters it’s not uncommon to experience self-consciousness when visiting nail salons as technicians have been reported as going so far as to refuse serving clientele with botch nails at all. To make things easier, we’ve made a list of the highest rated items you’ll need to give your nails first class treatment as well as a break from your gnashing teeth, all from the comfort of your home.

Do you have any other tricks to battle Onychophagia? Sound off in the comments below!