Is there a way to hack your own mind in order to take a ride on the good habits bandwagon…and stay there? Sticking with a habit, even if we know it’s good for us, is easier said than done. Quitting a known bad habit is even more challenging. We realize “good” habits come with many benefits, but it’s still difficult to let go of those habits labeled “bad.” Why is it so hard? Read on to learn more…

Habit Formation

Ever wonder how you can drive your car while listening to the radio and your kids talking while busy traffic is zooming by all at the same time? You can do this because everything associated with driving has become a habit. You do it without having to think about it. Whether good or bad, a formed habit lays down a pathway in the brain. As time goes on, any task associated with a habit will become easier with little or no conscious thought involved. A habit, like a river, carves a mental path in your brain. Once created, that mental flow is difficult to alter.

Neuroscience research now suggests that the answer lies in an awareness of three distinct parts of any habit: The cue, the routine and the reward. Altering any stage can yield positive results. Did you know that the reason toothpaste contains a “minty” taste is because the mint flavor triggers the reward center part of our brain. This reward cues us to regularly brush our teeth!

Use a Checklist

It’s a known fact that a simple checklist can assist us in completing a goal or to help us remember the smallest details in a project. However, did you realize that checklists can also help you during your daily routine? A checklist can help us to visualize each step in a process or in changing or acquiring a habit. Is your dream to start a business? Target your end goal and work backwards by creating a checklist. Dental flossing not top-of- mind? Map out the last few minutes of your bedtime routine by creating a checklist, and make sure flossing is on the list. Your list doesn’t have to be
long – just long enough to cover all the bases to instill that routine and in turn, habit.

Start Small and Build

With many things in life, starting small can be the key to a larger success down the road. A small habit, once begun, can have a domino effect resulting in other changes in one’s life. For example, if you want to start an exercise program, you may think aiming small is managing to go once a week. How about starting even smaller! Aim for putting on your workout clothes…who can’t accomplish that?! Sounds silly, but the key is to create a habit so small, it’s literally impossible to go without completing. Once you complete that one single task, you’ll experience the “reward” portion of the habit trifecta compelling you to do even more. Mini-habits are so small you will do them and do them often achieving greater successes as time goes on. Mission accomplished – habit formed.

Calendars Are All That!

Technology has come a long way, but a good, old-fashioned calendar is an invaluable tool. I’m not talking a modern, phone app calendar, but a time-tested wall calendar. There’s nothing like the constant visual of a twelve-month wall calendar to help guide you towards good habits. A wall calendar provides daily presence to remind you of your upcoming tasks, your progress and your goals. An inspirational quote might not hurt either. To physically check-off an achievement reached by a given date is an awesome feeling. That hard-earned reward is worth hanging on the wall for all to see!

If you start regularly brushing, flossing, and attending your check-ups, before you know it, you’ll be looking and feeling a whole lot better.

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About Tri-State Family Dentistry

Tri-State Family Dentistry is dedicated to providing the highest quality dental care possible. Being privately owned since 2009, we don’t experience the corporate pressure that other dental practices have to hit certain revenue numbers. You will never be ‘sold’ dentistry at Tri-State Family Dentistry. After we explain your treatment options, you can make your own decisions.