Two summers ago, one of my offsprings told me that she and her mate had made a challenge to each other. With their competitive nature on full display, they wanted to see who could stick to flossing their teeth every day for a year. Whoever skipped a day had to pay up. (Payment could be in the form of $$ or doing the chores or ??)
Background: Since I was small (and I’m not small any more), I’ve been nagged told by my dentist that I should floss more. Every 6 months, I would be reminded (okay, now it's every 9 months). Over the years I got tired of feeling guilty about dental hygiene. And I wanted to avoid the lecture.
Thinking I was clever, I began putting a note in my calendar a month earlier than my dentist appointment:
“Floss your teeth!”
It worked great! "Floss!" it told me and I did. A regularly mini-habit ran for thirty or thirty-one days.
Then came the appointment. I would show up, a smidgen queasy. I’d let the receptionist know I was there then proceed to the uncomfortable-plastic waiting-room seat before trudging after the hygienist. The antiseptic smells would followed me into the reclined chair, a crunchy bib appeared around my neck. I opened wide.
Poke, scrape, prod, measure.
Some small talk later, either the dentist or the hygienist would always ‘suggest’ I perform more regular flossing.
It was a scene I used to dread. Not only was was it tiring to keep my mouth open that long, the cleaning tended to hurt. “Rinse, please” ended with blood in the swirling sink.
Anyway, Back to the Challenge
When I heard about the challenge between offspring and mate, I thought, what if I challenged myself with that same challenge? Could I do it? I mean, DAILY?! I have been known to like habits…
I decided not to tell anyone about my personal challenge because then I wouldn’t have to confess if I failed – which I expected to within days.
The first day, I almost forgot. But I got it in before bed-time. The second day, flossing was still fresh in my mind, so I performed the ritual right after breakfast. The third day, I remembered at around eleven. I flossed, then lunch-time arrived shortly after that, and my efforts were thrown out the proverbial window.
OK, I thought, I have to tie the activity (flossing) to something that could become habit forming. So I picked to add it to my routine before going to work. I work from home, so ‘going to work’ means turning on my computer. J My computer is an older one. It takes a while to boot up. Ah, I perfect way to multi-task: I power up the computer, then go do my teeth: Floss. Brush. Swish. Spit. <sorry for the graphic images coming to your mind. :) >
After a few days, a strange thing happened. My mouth felt fresher. And I felt invigorated.
After a few more ritual-repetitions, that ‘hint of minty freshness’ (to quote Donkey from the first Shrek movie) became a daily thing. No one else really had to know, but I felt like I had accomplished an improvement. I was (and still am) proud of myself.
And a day after missing my floss/brush ritual (routines are hard!) I began to see the advantage of adding that series of actions to my not-routine (see this post). And <side-benefit> I was on the road of improved dental hygiene.
Since then, my hygenist has noticed improvements and my scaling sessions have reduced. Yea! Less time in that chair! The dentist is never 100% happy with my teeth, so his comments don’t bother me. Nobody’s perfect.
But I learned that sometimes little things can result in big successes. Even if it’s just a little success, I feel better.
I hope you find little activities that make you feel good, too. (And I hope they’re positive ones too!)