I’m wondering, how do you start a new habit? You know, the sort of thing you really should do but haven’t been naturally enthusiastic over…
I need to clean my teeth.
It sounds so lame. Really? An adult who can’t remember to clean her teeth?
A highly organised, planned, prioritised, efficient adult who can’t seem to find two minutes each morning to clean her teeth?
Yup. That would be me.
The thing is, I probably haven’t regularly cleaned my teeth twice a day since I was in primary school. It’s easier when you have a regular routine, you know. Eat breakfast, clean teeth, get schoolbag, leave. Well, I was home schooled in high school so the whole ‘leave’ part didn’t work and I think I just gradually got out of the habit of the morning clean. Then never fully found it again by the time I started work.
I have tried to re-create the habit. Unsuccessfully. Several times over the past few years. Usually after a visit to the dentist.
But my little post-its somehow develop cloaking devices. It’s as if they simply blend into the scenery and my mind doesn’t even recognise their existence. After a week this time round, I took them down and have been trying to come up with other ideas. After all, what’s the good of a reminder if it doesn’t actually remind you?!
They reckon people won’t change until the pain of now is worse than the pain of change. You would think I would be pretty motivated. Who wants to spend hundreds of dollars and hours of pain and discomfort when it might be completely unnecessary, all for want of a few minutes each day with a toothbrush and some toothpaste. It’s not like I can even claim that cleaning my teeth is painful. It is decidedly easy and painless. The dentist, on the other hand is neither. I had to spend an hour clutching my hands together, willing my jaw to open just a fraction further and my mind to remain calm. Remain calm, Amy, remain calm. It’s just three little cavities, right? As far as a dentist’s visit goes, it was relatively pain-free and relatively cheap (around $390 all up). But I’ve had fillings every year since 2006. Ugh. And this year, I’d kinda hoped that $390 might remain in my chest freezer fund. Huh. I guess not.
Why is it so hard to remember?
What do you do when you need to solidify a new habit or routine? How do you motivate yourself to do something you know needs to be done, but you just can’t seem to remember on a daily or weekly basis?
Am I completely incompetent? Lazy? Or just forgetful and busy???
The thing is, my bad habits are now setting the example for my son. If I don’t clean my teeth in the morning, how am I ever going to remember to teach him to do it? I’m super good at cleaning every night. Every single night. I hate the feeling of dirty teeth at bed. It’s part of my routine. But in the morning? That’s a completely different ball-game. I did it once last week, and it felt so nice. Really, really nice. Smooth and minty and shiny. But I still forgot the following day!
I now have a reminder in Outlook. Great idea, as it pops up every day so can’t blend into the scenery the way my post-its were. But I have to actually OPEN my computer, which some days doesn’t happen until afternoon.
Then there was the failed attempt at an alarm on my phone. It sounded like a terrific idea. Until it went off yesterday morning when Boyo was trying to sleep after a night shift. Rather loudly, while I was down the other end of the house. Needless to say I canned that idea just as soon as I had run the length of the house and fumbled the darn thing off.
How about a teeth-cleaning chart? I am a charts kinda gal. It is rather nice getting to put a tick on it when I remember. But it isn’t really helping with the actual remembering part. It’s on the kitchen window. The idea was to find somewhere I’d see it regularly, but the way the light shines in there, I can’t really ‘see’ it clearly. Maybe it needs another spot.
I managed to remember the morning teeth more than half the days last week. Well, that’s a good start I guess. Sometimes I’m doing it after lunch, instead of after breakfast, but I figure it still gets rid of plaque (thank's Maxine for pointing out that teeth brushing might not get rid of the plague!) so that’s got to be better than nothing. But half the days of the week is not enough. And if I’m really going to ‘get’ this, a regular routine would really help!
So there you go. One of my slightly embarrassing habits. Or lack of one, at any rate.