Breaking Bad: Curbing Negative Habits the Digital Way

Here’s a rough sketch of my day-to-day routine: my alarm sounds off at 8 AM, but I religiously hit snooze (every 10 minutes) until 9 AM. I shower quickly, throw on a lazy office outfit, and dash out the door, hoping I’d make it in time for my 10 AM shift. I then stare at the screen the entire day, assuming the most comfortable position on my chair, only standing for lunch and coffee breaks.

Once the day’s over, I go back home, sit on my bed, and tell myself I’m going to make a change. I’m going to sleep early tonight, wake up early tomorrow, and start the day fresh. I repeat this statement to myself, while I mindlessly watch docus and makeup videos until 2 AM.

How many bad habits have you counted?

Waking up late? Check.

Running late to work? Check.

Slouching the entire day? Check.

Procrastinating my chores and wasting my time until 2 AM? Check.

People say it only takes sheer will to break these bad habits. But for people like me — reckless young adults who live life without supervision — will is hard to come by, especially if the habits offer temporary convenience and comfort you through your difficult tasks.

Although it’s effective to have a friend or family member who’ll slap you on the wrist every time you succumb to a bad habit, they’re not always there to administer a punishment. Besides, it’s so easy to say “Yes, mom, I made it in time.”

The Solution: A Digital Overseer

If we can’t count on ourselves to break our habits, and if our Disciplinary Officer friend isn’t around, perhaps we can look to digital solutions to overcome our nasty behaviors.

Think about it. An app runs on algorithm, not excuses. A wearable tech doesn’t hesitate to chastise you or give off a loud noise that would embarrass you in front of your manager.  It won’t throw its hands up in the sky and say, “You’re hopeless, Renee Marsha” or won’t give in to your sweet alibis. It’s a black-and-white, yes or no, do or die solution that’s even more tenacious than your deepest-rooted habit.

So we’ve rounded up three wearable gadgets that will zap you of your bad habits for good.

Pavlock 2

Type: Smart Bracelet

Price: $199.99

Cleverly named after Ivan Pavlov, the psychologist who established the classical conditioning theory, the Pavlock 2 is a wearable device that releases a mild electrical shock every time you try to perform a bad habit. Its functionalities cater to common negative behaviours, such as sleeping in, smoking, nail biting, eating sugar, procrastinating, and more.

Although it bears the name of the founder of classical conditioning, a The Verge review pointed out that it operates on the ideas of B.F. Skinner, a psychologist who expanded on Pavlov’s research. In his theory, dubbed operant conditioning, you modify a behavior — such as a bad habit — through reward or punishment.

So here’s how the Pavlock 2 works: the device’s sensors know when you move your hand near your mouth, so it beeps, vibes, or zaps you whenever you try to bite your nails, snack on sugary food, or smoke. You then build an aversion; little by little, you choose not to engage in your habit because, you don’t want to get zapped.

It is reported to work wonders on people who love to sleep in. Nothing like a few electrocuting shocks to send you out of your mattress and into wide-awakeness.

Keen by HabitAware

Photo from HabitAware

Type: Smart Bracelet

Price: From $149.00

The Keen bracelet sprung from a personal struggle. Aneela Kumar, one of HabitAware’s co-founders, built a device to help her fight compulsive hair-pulling, also known as trichotillomania. The first prototypes were successful, so they refined the bracelet to reach more people who want to get rid of their hair-pulling habits.

Keen focuses on unwanted behaviors that involve hand motions near the head, face, and legs, including nail biting, skin picking, and thumb sucking. Once you activate the bracelet, you train it by performing the motions you want to overcome. The band can store up to four behaviors. It then monitors your hand movements thereafter via motion sensors.

Unlike Pavlock 2, though, Keen doesn’t shock the wearer with a few volts. Instead, it simply vibrates, calling your attention and hopefully, deterring your actions. Moreover, it is designed for kids (8 years and above).

UPRIGHT GO

Photo from UPRIGHT GO

Type: Adhesive Device

Price: $99.95

Sitting is the new smoking, and slouching makes it even worse. This is the problem that UPRIGHT GO seeks to solve. It promises to help you improve your posture within 14 days. It also helps build core strength, increase the endurance of your back muscles, and improve your body alignment.

You simply download the UPRIGHT GO app on your phone and then stick the small device to your back using its hypoallergenic adhesives (which won’t leave marks on your skin). The device is discreet, so it will rarely show through your clothes.

Whenever the UPRIGHT GO senses that you’re slouching, it will gently vibrate and remind you to sit straight.

Sheer Will, Still

Despite these devices’ nifty features, some wearers found loopholes. One, you can get used to the vibrations or gentle zaps over time, so you learn to ignore them or get by with just a little pain (like a underachieving masochist). Two, you purchase one device, a Keen or a Pavlock 2, to monitor your dominant hand, but nothing would stop your other hand. Three, you can always choose not to wear the device when it gets too annoying.

The moral of this article, I guess, is that no matter how powerful the habit-breaking device is, you still need to put in effort to get over your negative behaviors.

Unless they invent an all-seeing, inescapable device that monitors your every move. If they do, kindly message me. Hopefully, by then, I’d be able to see your email before 10 AM.

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