Psychological Self-Help

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16. Reward desirable behavior: It is vital that new habits be
immediately reinforced almost every time. So, reward your self-control
(if any) after every meal and "snack time." Alcoholics Anonymous has
a reward system that also serves as a warning sign against buying
booze. At your first AA meeting, you may pick up a red chip and carry
it with your "booze" money, so it will be felt and seen before any
alcohol is bought. In fact, in some AA groups, they have a rule that
you must break and throw away the chip before taking your first drink.
After one month of abstinence, the red chip is traded for a white one,
three months later you get a blue one, and, finally, a silver dollar at
your anniversary celebration. Every year is celebrated by drilling a
hole in your silver dollar. What a great reward system! Design
something like this for yourself. 
See the section on reinforcement earlier in this chapter and see
Method #16 in chapter 11, which provides detailed information about
how to use reinforcers to change behavior. This is a complex area, but
science has explored this area thoroughly and knowledge is available
for you to use every hour of every day. 
Many oral habits will need to be changed gradually; it may be too
hard to go from 3000 calories to 1200 per day or from 2 packs of
cigarettes to 6-8 per day or from 12 drinks to two per night. This
changing in small steps is called "shaping." For instance, a smoker
might move from 40 per day to 36 and hardly notice the difference.
After staying at 36 for a week then reduce it to 32 or so for another
week. When the smoker gets to 12-15 per day, the reduction each
week may need to be less, perhaps changing from 12 per day for one
week to 10 per day the next week. However, when one is down to 4 to
6 cigarettes per day, many people report it is easy to quit, presumably
because most cigarettes are being smoked while stressed, i.e. paired
only with unpleasantness. Smoking can be gradually reduced in two
other ways: increase the time between smokes or smoke less of each
cigarette (by marking with a felt pen where to stop). Each meal or
each day you achieve your easy-to-reach goal you should be
rewarded, but reward the behavior (eating < 400 calories for dinner)
rather than the effects (losing 1/2 lb. today). You control your eating;
the weight will take care of itself (especially if you exercise). 
Warning: Sometimes this gradual reduction is just an excuse to
continue a bad habit (or worse--a way to cheat and keep the habit).
Most experts in the areas of smoking and drinking say that going "cold
turkey" is best. It is hard but the tension and cravings are over in a
couple of weeks. If you use the gradual method, the tension of
reducing your intake can go on for months. 
17. Negative reinforcement: If one were highly conscious of the
unwanted consequences of overeating, smoking, or drinking, such as a
fat body, early death, cancer, unattractiveness, self-centered greed,
and so on, and thought of these stressful things every time one lost
control, then avoiding these unpleasant thoughts (by not consuming
unneeded stuff) would provide negative reinforcement. The warning
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