2020-08-04

Elastic bands for negative reinforcement


In the past few weeks, I have been wearing an elastic band on my wrist. Every time I find myself picking my nails or cracking my neck (two bad habits I have) I pull the band back and let it snap on my skin. This stings but does not cause any damage.

Unlike other strategies I've attempted to reduce nail picking, I'm hoping negative reinforcement will strengthen over time as my brain accumulates evidence that nail picking leads to pain. Other strategies (such as preemptively wearing plasters or using monetary rewards) seem to work well at the beginning, but become worse as the novelty of the strategy wears off. 

Failure modes


Not wearing the elastic band. I have a reminder every day to put one on and have a spare one on hand in case my wrist band snaps.

Deciding not to snap the band following an occurrence of the bad habit. When this happens I find myself "out of control" at an extremely low-level and no longer aligned with my goal of not doing bad habit X. Perhaps after leaving that state and giving multiple snaps for every missed occurrence would help.

Not noticing an occurrence of the bad habit. I think practice will help improve this.

Uncertainties


Does snapping the band negatively reinforce the *noticing* of the bad habit and not the habit itself?

Can the technique be extended to mental habits?

Is there an equivalently simple positive reinforcement that one can carry around and near effortlessly use? 
5 Tristan Cook: August 2020 In the past few weeks, I have been wearing an elastic band on my wrist. Every time I find myself picking my nails or cracking my neck (two b...
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