Our brains are lazy, and it’s an important concept we should understand when we want to create new habits, such as flossing our teeth every day.
As we dive into 2019, note that 92% of us will fail to keep our New Year’s resolutions. The good news is that we can use our understanding of this process to break the unwanted patterns and insert new habits into our routines that many of us struggle with… such as flossing every day.
Most of the things we do every day don’t involve actual decisions; they are part of a routine, or a habit. We only have so much willpower to use before our brain grows tired of the responsibility. So habits become the result of our brain looking for ways to reduce effort.
There is a three-step loop in this process. First, a cue signals our brain to switch to autopilot. Second, the established routine then takes place — something you won’t even have to think about doing. Finally comes the reward.
In a nutshell, all we need to do to create a new habit is establish a new loop, or overtake an existing one. Put together a cue, a routine, and a reward, and then simply cultivate that same craving to drive the loop.
Do I Have Something in my Teeth?
At the start of the 20th century, dental hygiene was so bad that it was considered a national security risk. People weren’t brushing their teeth and the era of sugary foods had begun. Claude Hopkins didn’t like this. You see, he developed and sold toothpaste, but was unable to sell clean and healthy teeth. Instead, he sold a sensation.
Let me explain… His marketing campaign told people to run their tongues along their teeth. He said, “You’ll feel a film – that’s what makes your teeth look off-white and invites decay.” His new toothpaste was said to remove that sticky film and bring a cool, tingly sensation to your teeth.
Users began to equate that tingling sensation with clean teeth, so daily brushing became much more common.
Improving oral hygiene may not be number one on your resolution list (although we think it should be!) but it’s important enough for us to mention that your new FSA/HSA benefits have kicked in and now’s the time to make dental appointments and evaluations! You’ll beat the rush and kill two birds with one stone.
FACT: Cravings drive habits. In order to make new habits, we must first figure out how to spark a craving. Some bad habits can be hard or impossible to break, but the secret isn’t to erase the habit, but rather, to change it. Use the same cue, insert new routine, and deliver the old reward.
Our patients have every motivation to take care of themselves and their oral health; especially when a new year rolls around. It’s vital for overall health and a long life and our teeth will serve us well and for a long time if we maintain them.
Create the (New) Loop
First, you need to create a cue. It doesn’t need to be as blatant as setting an alarm on your phone or putting a Post-it note on the mirror; though that does work. Whatever your goal is, before going to bed review your bedtime process and add a cue that triggers the reminder you want to incorporate into your routine.
Keep in mind, the easier the process, the more likely you are to stick to it.
There are several parts to a reward process. Tricking your brain into incorporating your new “habit” can be as easy as rewarding yourself when you complete the task. If you enjoy reading before bed, use that as the reward for completing your new “habit”.
Whatever your routine is, it will take time to amend it. Be patient with yourself and know that missing a day isn’t the end of the world. Keep on top of yourself and before you know it, your new resolution will be second nature.
When You Gotta Habit, Your Boise Dentist Can Help
We can help. We can hold you accountable. Begin the year right by scheduling a cleaning and get off on the right foot with a dental care plan specifically for you.