I've found that I snack less, and concentrate better, when I chew on a plastic stirrer--the kind that you get to stir your to-go coffee.
I picked up this habit from my husband, who loves to chew on things. His favorite chew-toy is a plastic pen top, and gnawed pen tops and little bits of plastic litter our apartment.
But he also chews on plastic stirrers, and at some point, I decided to give this practice a try. I've been astonished at how helpful this small habit is.
I keep these stirrers in my office and backpack, and whenever I sit down at my computer, I pop one between my teeth. An occupational hazard with writing is to write while eating, smoking, or drinking--usually things that aren't very healthy--but having the stirrer in my mouth diminishes that urge. True, my urge to snack has plummeted since I've started eating along the lines suggested by Gary Taubes's book Why We Get Fat, but this habit has cut down it down still further.
Also, chewing on a stirrer helps me to concentrate. I feel more focused when I chewing away. I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps it's the placebo effect--but the placebo effect is quite effective, so I'll take it.
I'm a devoted hair-twister, so I definitely have an aptitude for nervous habits. Chewing on a plastic stirrer probably the adult equivalent of popping in a pacifier, but it's effective.
How about you? Do you ever chew on plastic stirrers, straws, pencils, ice or other things? Or do you have other habits that are similarly helpful?