As an individual that can be deeply critical of just about everything I have ever said or done, I have been looking for a way to better control those negative thoughts and regrets from popping into my head.
Negative thoughts and down periods are not restricted to those with mental illness and depression, many if not all of us experience these at different times, some more than others. The difference is our ability to work through this negativity to perform productive actions and make positive life choices.
As a coach some years ago I came across the idea of negative reinforcement. I did not invent this nor the idea of using an immediate and somewhat painful negative stimulus to reduce negative actions and behaviours. I intended to use it on bowlers at my cricket club every time they bowled a wide ball down leg-side. I never did implement this rule, but the concept stuck with me until recently.
I often find I fall into negativity when my mind is allowed to wander, most often when I am driving (maybe I should concentrate on the road more). One day a few weeks back I decided to try the negative reinforcement theory and document my progress. The rules I have set are:
Must be immediate
Must be hard enough to hurt
Must be for every negative thought or regret
8am: I found a thick rubber band and placed it around my right wrist (I wear a watch on my left). I gave it a test snap - yep that hurts.
9pm: Snapped myself 3 times today, my mind drifted to random incidents from up to 15 years ago while driving. Why do I hang on to these regrets? I try telling myself at all actions I have taken have helped me to end up here, where I am more than content with my life. But that doesn't really change much. My wrist is a bit red.
Only 2 snaps today, maybe this is working. But I didn't drive today at all, got a strange look from someone on the bus when I desperately reached under my French cuffs to snap myself.
I have found I am snapping about 2-3 times per day on average, so no great improvement. But what I have noticed is the negative reinforcement actually makes me "snap" out of it (pun intended). I can let the negativity go much quicker.
My wife has noticed the band and is not very impressed. "Can't you just bite your tongue or something, you look silly." I tried explaining the concept but she doesn't understand why I'm negative. She's very different from me in this way; that's why I think we work - we balance each other out. But I still think she thinks I'm a bit nuts.
I have my 1st NSD (No Snap Day). I don't realise until I go to bed, but I must have been busy today. My wrist is starting to stink a bit like rubber and stale sweat so I decide to take it off for tonight.
I forget to put it back on and realise when I go to snap and I'm not wearing it. Only one potential snap though so getting much better.
I feel like I'm down to only 1-2 snaps per day now. Progress is being made. Wifey still not impressed with the rubber band so I start designing something that might look a bit more palatable.
The kids have discovered my rubber band, tried explaining daddy needs to use it when "he's naughty". They are now taking great pleasure in snapping it for me and saying "naughty daddy".
I thought I would let it go a week before reporting back. The good news is I have now had 2-3 NSDs and average only 1 snap per day overall this week. Definitely feel like I am having less negative thoughts and regrets. I have designed my *patent pending* Snap Band using Microsoft 3D Builder. Still a bit of fine tuning but think it looks ok?
So wifey had had enough and I have taken the *Snap Band* off. I definitely feel that the negative thoughts and regrets are less frequent. Quite a few times I re-snapped, to ensure the pain factor was there. But now feeling I am having more NSDs than not.
So in summary, did this work? To be honest, for me, yes it did. Will it work for everyone? Maybe not. But it was an interesting little experiment and in my eyes, it helped me to reduce the number and frequency of negative thoughts and regrets. So if this is something that bothers you, why not give it a shot. Keep an eye out more my *patent pending* Snap Bands in the near future.