My dad died so you & I can live.

This post has been years in the making. It was written over the course of the past two and a half years. I’m choosing to finally share this, because it’s my dad’s birthday today.

When I speak of how I've found writing to be therapeutic, this is what I mean:

* * *

I met with my psychologist almost a year ago (2014). I shared how I was having this nervous/tense energy and constant anticipation that something bad was going to happen.  This anxiety has been fairly consistent since 9/11. Today, I know that this anxiety is likely OCD / Intrusive Thoughts.

The feelings of course all lead back to core negative beliefs that I am not good enough. (In this case, not good enough to protect myself or my family because I am weak and powerless).

My fear - and the narrative I keep running through my head is being at the scene of a terrorist attack.  What I would do? Where would I run? Where would I hide? Would I be brave - or strong - enough to fight? I play this out everywhere I go, searching for how I would save myself, my husband & my son. 

Back in December (2015) I was honestly shit scared to go to the Mall of America here in Minneapolis. But part of the process in dealing with anxiety is to actually push yourself to face the things that make you anxious. The first time, I made it to the mall parking lot & waited there while my son slept in his car seat and Sameer ran in to the mall to run an errand.  The next time I was braver, but still very cautious as I walked through the mall. But, hey, I did it.  

Good therapy is like having coffee with a friend

In session, my psychologist & I talked about how no matter how many times I play a scenario in out in my head, it’ll never be how it actually happens. So why waste that mental energy over & over again? We came to the conclusion that I have the power to not only choose the internal narrative, but change it too. Instead of letting my mind wander to these “bad things” I can choose to concentrate on the present moment.  A lot like hair pulling (trichotillomania) in a way…I just need to have the awareness, which brings the power to choose a different action, like deep breathing, or a new train of thought.

Tragedy can be the bridge to something positive.
— my doctor

With the help of my psychologist, I learned a new perspective and strategy: Rather than fearing something that may not happen, focus on what is actually happening and be in the present moment.  And if something bad does happen, I still have a choice.  I can wallow in self-pity and focus on the trauma/tragedy or I can be grateful for the treasures that emerge. 

“Tragedy can be the bridge to something positive.” I wrote in my notes from that appointment as my psychologist divulged her own personal tragedy of how a recent car crash was actually a blessing in disguise. She shared how by changing her perspective, she was able to overcome it.

To get the most out of therapy, do the "homework!"

Check out that '70s style!

Check out that '70s style!

And from there I decided to look back on a tragedy that for so long hurt so much: losing my dad to cancer when I was 17. The discussion with my therapist changed forever how I remember that time. To shift away from the sadness, tears and pain, I decided to make a list of all the good things that came out of my father's sickness and death.

It’s only because of this newfound outlook, and my active decision to give this "homework" a try that I’ve been able to come to terms with it in recent years. It took hard work to shift the focus onto the good that came from the bad, but it's doable. 

Shifting my mindset, shifted the outcome

So what good can come from sickness and death? A lot actually:

(1) I met one of my best friends, I'll call her S.

S making me laugh as always!

S making me laugh as always!

When my dad was sick, we went searching for the smartest doctors to help us navigate the murky waters of sickness and health insurance. A family friend introduced us to a doctor in the next town over. His daughter was my age and one of the funniest people I had ever met. I remember thinking "I want to be S's friend!" I can still picture that first time at their house. All through high school, it became a second home. It was where I was the day I found out my dad passed. 

S is still to this day one of my best friends even though we now live miles apart. My favorite days are when we get to catch up on our commutes!

(2) I took control of my career path

When I was in high school, I was automatically placed in an accounting class because the photography class I signed up for was full. I was BUMMED. But I sucked it up. And a funny thing happened: I was really, really good at accounting. So that's what I focused on through college and for the 3 years thereafter as a staff auditor at Ernst & Young. 

Around the 3 year mark, something changed (a story for another day!). I was unhappy, in a depressive spiral and I needed to get out. I looked within to a time when I was happy (when I was a kid) and realized I simply missed being creative.

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 6.39.41 AM.png

The way I figured out my next step was with a napkin. My auditing client at the time was Time Warner. We worked out of their offices, on the marketing floor. In their kitchen I found this napkin (yes, I kept it all these years!). With my curiosity piqued, I went to the website and saw an ad for my next move: Miami Ad School.

(3) I met a boy

My initial intent was to attend Miami Ad School's Madrid campus. I had fallen in love with Madrid when I studied abroad in college.

But last minute, I decided to study advertising at the Miami location instead - and here's where things get interesting. S also knew someone from her college days that was moving down to Miami for work and she introduced us. It was a friendly introduction, but that boy quickly turned into my fave person to hang out with.

His name is Sameer and he is now my husband, father to our two sweet boys and CEO of HabitAware! It was as if it was planned, as if my dad was guiding me to Miami for this purpose, and more.

(4) I moved to Minneapolis

Sameer's career brought us to Minneapolis in 2011. By that time, I had been working in advertising for 3 years. I was loving being part of the creative process, and though not designing (because of my own lack of self confidence & insecurities), I was utilizing my business-minded skills as a client manager & digital project manager to make sh*t happen on a daily basis.

Minneapolis is a bustling city with a hot advertising scene - and equally hot tech/startup scene. I was able to quickly continue my ad-life at Fallon, where I met and worked with their Director of Innovation & Technology. It wasn't long before I got the startup bug - or more accurately the "I want the time I spend working on this earth to truly make a difference" bug. 

(5) I shared a life-long secret

Trich was another "gift" my father left me. During his sickness, I turned to pulling as a soothing mechanism. It hadn't felt like a gift until recently though.

3 years into our marriage, Sameer caught me without eyebrows. I finally divulged my hair pulling secret. That led us on this journey to invent our Keen smart bracelet, with John and Kirk.

Today, not just I, but countless others use Keen to take back control of hair pulling, skin picking, nail biting, or all 3 and get back to what life is all about: LIVING.

* * *

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my dad. But I don’t miss him anymore. Instead, now, I thank him for the gifts he’s given me over these years...For the protection, for the guidance, for the chance to live.

He’s “in the sky,” as my 4 year old says. Watching over us all.

with love❤️, strength 💪& awareness 👀,


About HabitAware

HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.

JOIN THE JOURNEY: Order today and sign up for our e-newsletter for helpful strategies, news & important product updates.

In Honor of Independence Day: Why I Freed Myself from a “Pull Free” Mindset

What does it mean to be “pull free?”

As one of more than 10,000 members of an online Trichotillomania support group, there isn’t a day that goes by that someone doesn’t vow to go pull free, or share how many days, weeks, months or years they are celebrating being pull free.   

“Pull free,” according to Urban Dictionary is “a term to describe when someone suffering from trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder) stops pulling out their hair for a certain amount of time.” It may even involve physically restraining oneself from pulling, with the goal of permanently stopping. The same mentality applies for skin picking (dermatillomania) and the act of being “Pick Free.”


My transition from “pull free” to “pull less”

Pull Free Vibes by Aahpinkiepie

Pull Free Vibes by Aahpinkiepie

I always feel conflicted when I see someone post about their pull free goals. Part of me feels really happy that my fellow trichster has had enough and wants to make a positive change, and then part of me feels sad and worried, because pull free seems like a hamster wheel – no matter how much energy is put into it, you more than likely wind up in the same spot.

Even on a personal level, I used to wish folks in the groups “PFV,” or “Pull Free Vibes.” I really wanted to be pull free for myself too. There are some people for which pull free,” or going cold turkey, is the only option. Some people’s personalities just NEED that sort of goal in order to succeed. But it isn’t for everyone. And in trying pull free, I realized it wasn’t for me.


5 reasons why “pull free” wasn’t for me

So, in honor of July 4th / American Independence Day, here’s my top 5 reasons why I freed myself from the pull free mindset:

  1. Attempting pull free consumed me: A few years back I was on a focused pull free run. I was doing well, but it took so much energy and focus that I wound up not being able to do much else beyond being pull free and going to work. It sucked the life out of me, and I basically cut myself off from my friends and any semblance of a social life for a while. Which is ironic because I finally had lashes and brows and didn’t feel self-conscious being around people anymore!
  2. When the triggers get REAL, relapse can lead to devastating failure: During my pull free run, a majorly stressful event happened at work – I made an error in a cost estimate quote for a client. Likely because all my mental energy was being consumed with not pulling. I wound up losing my company thousands of dollars(!) My team was mad, but also somewhat understanding as it was clear I was overworked, under-slept & quite junior at the time. But that didn’t stop me from beating myself up. That stress over the financial mistake fueled a pulling spree, when I had previously thought I was “cured.” Instead I was a failure, and of course, the new lack of lashes & brows pushed me further into a depression.
  3. Pull free is extreme perfectionism – and that’s what got me pulling to begin with:  Research has shown that people with body focused repetitive behaviors (bfrbs) have perfectionist tendencies. That’s me to a T. Not just pixel perfection in work / hyper attention to detail (except of course for the above story!). But also in the home: my clothes hang within perfect distance of one another in my closet and our kitchen cupboards are organized MY WAY, which is the right way (in my humble opinion :) ). And of course this perfectionism, coupled with the “grooming” gene that is likely linked to trich, led the way for my pulling to begin as I began tweezing my hairs during puberty because I was so self-conscious.
  4. Pull free still means you need another outlet, and I didn’t give myself one: A promise to stop pulling is nothing without working on replacing the pulling. As noted above, I declared myself pull free without building myself a toolkit to help me cope with the triggers and urges. Without actively working hard to do something else, all I was doing was denying myself the pulling and building up the tension in my body, until of course, I one day exploded. It’s much like dealing with anger!
  5. Pull free leaves NO room for error: Going pull free was added pressure I didn’t need! In giving myself an unrealistic goal, without preparation, I set myself up for failure. Humans by nature make mistakes. I didn’t give myself room to let those mistakes, or learnings as I now view them, happen. Now I do allow myself a few hairs every now and again room, and see those pulls as an opportunity to grow, learn and improve.

Because of my experience with trying to be pull free, and in seeing how devastating it is for others in the support groups, I no longer believe in the pull free mentality. I’m more of a “pull less” or “pull very little” kind of gal now.

I’m more of a “pull less” or “pull very little” kind of gal now.

Body focused repetitive behaviors like hair pulling (trichotillomania), skin picking (dermatillomania) and nail biting (onchyophagia), are disorders that we will carry for the rest of our lives – they are genetic after all. And I’ve come to terms with that. I’ve come to accept my trich for what it is: this thing I’ll always carry with me, but something I have learned to manage with awareness using my HabitAware Keen smart bracelet.

So, I still pull once in a while, but it no longer consumes or devastates me the way it used to. I’ve built my awareness muscles. I’m able to catch myself and replace the behavior using Keen’s guided breathing light, one of my go-to replacement strategies. With focus, awareness and leaving myself wiggle room for mistakes, I have learned to manage my trich & take control, rather than being controlled by it.

We are all unique, so ultimately, you need to do what works for you to free yourself of your bfrb burden.

Ultimately though, bfrbs manifest differently in everyone. Which means what works for one person may not work for another, and is also why a single cure has been difficult to nail down. We are all unique, so ultimately, you need to do what works for you to free yourself of your bfrb burden.

Wishing you love, awareness & a time that comes when you are bfrb-free,







About HabitAware


HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.

JOIN THE JOURNEY: Order today and sign up for our e-newsletter for helpful strategies, news & important product updates.

The Fidget Cube & Fidget Spinner Craze!

It is no secret that fidget toys are a good replacement strategy for hair pulling (trichotillomania), skin picking (dermatillomania) and nail biting (onychophagia). The reason? Fidget toys keep your hands busy so you can't physically pull, pick or bite.

Keen, our habit awareness bracelet, can be the first step in this process by helping you become aware of your behavior. Once aware, you can grab your favorite fidget toy to keep your hands occupied.

In fact, the TLC Foundation for BFRBs store and Amazon are filled with thousands of different fidgets toys. No longer are we relegated to simply twirling our pens when anxious, we have been able to squeeze squeezy balls, play with play dough and tangle tangles for a while now. 

Screen Shot 2017-06-25 at 10.29.10 PM.png

None of these fidget toys has ever reached critical mass. Until now!

All of a sudden there has been a surge in the craze for fidget toys - namely because of new inventions: the fidget cube and the fidget spinner. These two tools have gotten so popular there's even a Twitter hashtag: #fidgetfriday

Fidget Cube's Origin

The fidget cube is the brain child of Matthew and Mark Mclachan from Antsy Labs. The fidget cube is a "high-quality desk toy designed to help you focus." according to the Antsy Lab website. It was brought to life via a Kickstarter campaign, raising $6.4 million dollars more than their goal of $15,000!!! 

Fidget Cube's success took a turn when Chinese manufacturers on Alibaba and Amazon began offering comparable products shortly after the Kickstarter appeared.

Though it was Matthew and Mark's idea, others with more manufacturing experience stole the idea and beat them to market! Reviews of generic fidget cubes vs. the legitimate fidget cube indicate that the TRUE Fidget Cube is of higher quality materials and textures.

Fidget spinners quickly sprang to market thereafter, but their origin is much less clear, with many generic versions available all over the internet.  

How Fidget Cubes and Fidget Spinners Help


The logic behind fidget cubes and fidget spinners is simple: if you are a naturally fidgety person, these tools help you focus that fidgety energy into the palm of your hand so you can regain your focus. Fidget spinners are a great tool for students with ADD / ADHD and other issues. 

Instead of jumping around the classroom or engaging in random outbursts, these kids have found an outlet for their extra energy. These tools have also helped people relieve stress and anxiety as well. 

Fidget Spinners for Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs)


So naturally fidget spinners and fidget cubes have made their way into the hands of those suffering from body focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs), such as hair pulling (trichotillomania), skin picking (dermatillomania), and nail biting (onychophagia). recently got stocked with fidget spinners. While they maybe a little more expensive than what you may find on Amazon or Ebay, do remember, it all goes to a good cause: supporting (y)our BFRB community and funding research for a cure. 


Join the Journey


HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.

Sign up for our e-newsletter for helpful strategies, news & important product updates.

The HabitAware Story: Our "WHY" is in our Logo

An Interview with Alison Beattie, Director of User Experience - Target

The past few months have been insanely busy. We finalized our product, shipped Keen pre-orders and had a baby!

We’ve been moving fast but this milestone also lends itself to pause and reflect not only on how we got here, but also honor those who helped us! (P.S. have you seen what Prevention Magazine said about Keen?)

To start, we chatted with Alison Beattie, my friend & UX/graphic designer, on the origin of the HabitAware logo!

Alison & I met while working on a massive branding & website launch at Fallon, one of the top ad agencies in Minneapolis. I asked for Alison’s help because I didn’t feel I had the design chops – or the confidence, but that’s a story for another day – to create the HabitAware logo:  

Why does the HabitAware logo look the way it does? The answer has to do with core logo design principles, and, of course, our own “Why?”

The Design Process

Aneela: Firstly, Alison, thank you for joining us on this journey and being so supportive through it all. I really appreciate you sitting down to take our readers through some of your design choices :) Can you start by tell us a little about the design process?

Alison: Thank you, Aneela!  Sure, the first thing I do when working on a logo is try to understand what the company is about and what they are trying to accomplish. A good logo should communicate this easily, while also creating a bit of an "ah-ha!" moment. I also want to make sure I design something that my clients will like! I always start with a moodboard of sample designs, fonts, markings and colors to gauge client design preferences. From this brainstorming session I take time to sketch by hand before translating my ideas into a vector graphic logo.

HabitAware's Shapes and Colors

Aneela: Can you tell our readers why you choose the colors of green and yellow?

HabitAware is all about strengthening the mental health of their customers.

Alison: Color is an important aspect to design. Color evokes emotion. I chose colors that were pastel and almost transparent to give the logo a calming effect. Green and yellow are “nature colors” that represent health and growth. I chose them because HabitAware is all about strengthening the mental health of their customers.

Aneela: What about the circles? Why this shape? Why not squares?

Alison: If you look closely, the circles of the HabitAware logo overlap slightly, achieving the effect of a spotlight coming into focus. Since HabitAware’s goal is to help people build their awareness, I thought this to be an appropriate metaphor. I stayed away from sharp edges and angles so that the logo would provide an inviting warmth.

Ladders or Letters?

Aneela: Lastly, the center mark is my favorite. I love the meaning behind it...can you share a bit about it?

It’s all about rising up, climbing to a new level, becoming a better you!

Alison: The mark in the center are an H & an A, for HabitAware. I fused them together in a way, to give the visual effect of looking like a ladder.

Aneela: Yes! I love that visual play with the letters & the ladder symbol...Because it’s all about rising up, climbing to a new level, becoming a better you!


When people ask me why I gave up the career in advertising that I loved to pursue HabitAware, they chime in with the overused saying “hardware is hard” and similarly dejecting lines about entrepreneurship and customers and lack of sleep, etc. etc. But my answer to their why is always the same: Our why is in our logo. We want to help people like me struggling with body focused repetitive behaviors (bfrbs) like hair pulling (trichotillomania), nail biting (onychophagia), skin picking (dermatillomania) to build their awareness, find their own calm and rise up to a better self.


About Alison Beattie:

Alison Beattie is a creative thinker and tinkerer. She’s and experience design maker, honing her skills at various ad agencies (including Colle McVoy and & Fallon), and now runs Digital User Experience at Target. Alison founded Minneapolis MadWomen, an organization hell bent on ensuring career equality for women in creative fields. In her spare time she dabbles in writing and podcasting, oh and she’s also mom to a feisty four year old! In short, Alison is all the things!


#origin #design #branding

Ask HabitAware: How do I get my child on board with the Keen smart bracelet?

From time to time we get questions from our users that we can only guess others are thinking as well.

Carrie from Miami asks:

My daughter is a skin picker, mostly on her face and arms. I am wondering, do you have any tips for a first time Keen user who is a teenager? How can I motivate and support my daughter in this process?

Thank you,



Hi Carrie,

Thank you for writing in and trusting HabitAware as a tool to help your daughter.

I won’t even pretend to be able to imagine what it's like to be a mom or dad watching your child afflicted with skin picking (dermatillomania), hair pulling (trichotillomania) or nail biting (onycophagia).  All I know is that I want to bubble wrap my two children and protect them from any worldly harm. And I assume the same for you! But, I know that’s not realistic or beneficial to anyone.

How will our children learn what they are made of if they do not face adversity? How will they learn to handle the difficulties that make life, well, life?

How can you get your daughter on board for Keen smart awareness bracelet? This is a great question, and a very difficult one to answer. I’m not sure there is one answer, nor a right or wrong one. Being a mother, being on Keen’s development team and being Keen’s first test subject, I hope these ideas can help.

4 things to prepare as parent before using Keen

1. Know what you can - and cannot - do

As a parent the most important thing you can do is to offer your love and support, unconditionally. If you see that your daughter has been doing well for weeks and then goes on a skin picking spree…Hug her. Don’t punish her. Punishing tactics are for when your daughter knowingly does something wrong - lies, breaks curfew, speaks rudely etc. But when she does something that is beyond her control, like skin picking, punishing only makes it worse.

Your daughter needs to know that you are on her side.

2. Take care of yourself so you have the energy to take care of your child.

Your daughter needs you to be strong, in those times when she is weak and gives in to those skin picking urges.

"But how can I be strong?" you may ask. Simple. You need to take time for your own self-care so that you have an outlet for your frustration with this disorder. If you take out your frustration on your daughter, she will see it as you being frustrated with her. She will take that in and tell herself that she is the cause of her parent’s pain and she will slowly shut you out. You need to show her that it is the skin picking that is robbing your joy, not her. 

3. Join a support group

Another thing you can do is to find support with other parents going through similar pains. has a support group listing. There are closed Facebook and Yahoo groups specifically for parents to connect. Knowing you are not alone in this and just talking with others can lift the burden and help you regain your sanity. 

4. Understand what Keen can - and cannot - do

Keen is not a cure to your child’s undesirable behavior, it is a tool to help them manage it. Keen's primary intention is to help increase awareness, simply because you can't change what you don't know is happening!  After that, both you and your daughter need to understand that it is still HER CHOICE to move her hand away. But we find once “awakened” by Keen’s vibration, it is much easier to make that new choice.


How do you know if your daughter is ready for this change? How do you prepare her to be ready to use Keen and make that new choice?

Help your daughter understand her current relationship with their behavior

To start now, your daughter should try to take stock of where she is, what she is doing, how she is feeling when she is hair pulling. This may help her identify her triggers. If she knows what is causing her urges, she can then begin to preempt the urges using more positive replacement strategies, like deep breathing, exercise or fidget toys.

In my case, it took me a long time to realize that exhaustion and tiredness were my big triggers - I would stay up late working on my computer and pulling away.  Now I've found ways to manage my day better (so there's less to do at night) and to just be OK with shutting down and going to sleep, even if something is time sensitive. I know now, that this is not just ok, but better! Because even though the work will be there in the morning, so will my hair!

Ensure your daughter’s readiness to change

No strategy is going to help if your daughter is not ready to take action and make the effort to make their own life better. To get her interested in Keen, I suggest sharing our website and letting her review it on her own. I also encourage parents to watch two of our videos together:

How Keen Works:

The story of our journey: “Meet Keen”

Ultimately, using Keen needs to be her decision. And when she is ready to take control of skin picking with Keen, we will be there for her because we know first hand that if HabitAware can help her strengthen her willpower and replace the behavior with our push-button deep breathing guide, she'll be set up for success against future challenges life may throw at her.

3 tips after she begins using Keen

1. Wear Keen every day.

Just like it’s important to brush her teeth, wearing Keen should become part of her daily routine. At first you’ll have to remind her, but over time with the right motivation they’ll learn on their own. Hopefully that motivation will be seen in the reduction of redness from the skin picking, but if needed, there's no shame in implementing an external reward system! 

2. Talk about the behavior, as much as she is willing

There is so much shame associated with trichotillomania and dermatillomania. It doesn't have to be that way. Through open conversation, this shame can be quelled.

Asking your daughter how many times she picked in a day is likely a tough discussion, since she might be frustrated or anxious if confronted. However, the more discussions you have the more aware she will become and the stronger your relationship. Getting her perspective can help you understand progress and maybe even understand more about when and why she is doing the behavior.

Using Keen as the hook can help jumpstart the discussion. Instead of asking "Did you pick today?" you can simply inquire "How many times did Keen vibrate today?” Keen comes with the ability to track activity, so you can together, review the app analytics. In this way, the conversation is shifted from perceived blame directed at your daughter to the bracelet's activity log.  

3. Take advantage of Keen's tracking data

From there, you can then ask questions about the patterns that emerge from the data. Another conversation starter could be "How can you make Keen vibrate less?" From here you can work together to come up with suggestions for replacement behaviors.


We know you are creative and can find many additional ways to motivate your child. We’d love to hear them and share with the rest of the community. The main thing to keep in mind is to stay consistent, positive, and supportive. There will no doubt be ups and downs throughout this process, and it is OK to be disappointed or frustrated at times. When she understands the importance of changing her behavior she’ll take a more active role and hold herself accountable. This is how you know you’ve made a healthy impact on her life and given her the tools to take on challenges in the future.

If you and your daughter choose our smart bracelet technology to take control, know that we are here for you. We very much want everyone to succeed on this journey.  As always, please feel free to connect with us

With love & awareness,