One of the most magical things I ever did was getting to a point where I now floss (nearly) every day.
At my dentist’s office for a regular cleaning a few years ago, I realized that I was getting charged more based on how much plaque buildup there was to take care of. I realized that if I brushed better, and flossed too (because I hadn’t been), I could save both Time and Money.
I reasoned with myself that I only needed to floss once or twice a week to make sure my gums didn’t bleed whenever I did get around to flossing. And 20% less plaque was better than 0% less.
Eventually, gradually, over time, I worked up to flossing every other day, then every day, and it all happened so naturally, without planning. I surprisingly built a habit, just by setting the bar super low. This was years ago.
I think going from zero to Habit™ takes a lot of energy. So that could be why it’s good to take it slow. And it seems like going from a solid, set-in-stone Habit™ to Habit™ 2.0 — Now With More Features! takes less energy than the initial build.
The other night I didn’t floss. It was a rough day, I was irritated, and I needed a break. But most of all, I knew that one day of not flossing wouldn’t kill me, and I knew that it would only be one day. I gave myself grace, I could afford to.
Recently I’ve been reflecting on how I wish I had taken that flossing lesson and applied it to other habits. But now that I think of it, I actually did do that for eating vegetarian. It started with Meatless Mondays, and now I just don’t eat meat. So maybe it’s just all about lowering the pressure. Being happy with 20% success over time, rather than 100% for just a week.
Recently I visited an Ayurvedic doctor. She gave me a list of over a dozen habit changes to incorporate. I have been consistent with tongue scraping, and drinking warm water rather than cold, when I do drink water. There are some diet changes that I’ve been decently consistent with, and some supplements that I’ve been so-so about. Mudras (hand poses) haven’t stuck, nor have yoga poses.
She listed three breathing techniques to practice, and the other day, I finally made the “flossing" connection. If I can reliably practice one breathing technique during a time of stress, that can be enough!
One breathing technique, mastered for the rest of my life, is way better for me than attempting to integrate three all at the same time. I don’t normally do any breathing techniques at all, so, just like flossing, one breathing exercise practiced even just once a week, not even necessarily planned, is huge.
Two Other Hacks
There are a couple of other things I’d like to share. One of them is about dog training.
With our family pet, her original caretaker told us how she trained her dogs to have reasonable barking. It was very simple, just the command, “Thank you.” I think she worked her way up to this point with a combination of consistently giving present attention and modelling authentic non-concern, which provided an easy reassurance.
Because if you think about it, barking isn’t wrong. Dogs are alerting us or others, they’re communicating. It’s the excessive barking that’s the issue. This training I’ve found works on older anxious dogs too. Maybe it will work for you in some way if you find yourself having to deal with an excessively barky dog. Maybe they just need to “feel heard" or “useful.” Worth a try!
The other thing I’d like to share about is how to respond to young kids who ask a lot of questions. Just bounce the question back to them. For example…
Young Kid: “Why does that apple have a brown spot?”
Not Young Kid: “Why do you think it has a brown spot?”
Young Kid: “Why are you doing that?”
Not Young Kid: “Why do you think I’m doing this?”
It’s important to keep the emphasis on the “you" part of the response question, to clearly communicate respect to your young friend.
This technique saves me so much mental energy (I forget where I learned it from) and has the benefit of developing critical thinking for the young kid. So often I’m met with a mildly shocked expression, then a pause, and a creative answer. Much more fruitful all around, relaxing, and freeing.
I’m still not totally sure of the future of this blog, but I like posting here, it’s nice to have the space, and I appreciate you sticking around. Many thanks!