Friday, July 8, 2011

Mental Floss

Good habits are worth being fanatical about - John Irving

I'll confess. I haven't always regularly flossed my teeth. I would sporadically run the waxed ribbon between the spaces in my smile down to the gum and usually it would be right around the time I had a check-up coming up at the dentist. And without fail, every visit I would be asked if I was making sure to floss regularly as my defenseless gums lost the battle with the medieval weapons the hygienist used against plaque and tartar. I would become defensive -- of course I flossed and what's the definition of "regularly" anyway? And the only logical reason my gums were being drained of blood was because they had been attacked with a sharp hooked pick by someone who was obviously a sadist, choosing a profession in which sharp pain was wielded against an innocent bystander in the name of preventing cavities.

I hated the feeling of shame inflicted upon me 3 times a year as I lay back in that chair, mouth open, unable to spew a full sentence with a tiny mirror and a small vacuum hose jammed in my mouth. And I decided to conduct an experiment. I see my dentist every 4 months. I was going to floss EVERY SINGLE DAY in between visits to prove that it wasn't a lack of regular flossing that had my gums weeping. I meticulously made a point of writing in my day book every day after I flossed so that I could show the dentist my records.

The thing experiment back fired in a sense. At first, my gums howled and were angry that I was continuing the undeserved punishment in the privacy of my bathroom. And then they seemed to subside, give up, allow me to continue the daily ritual. After a few weeks, it was like we had both forgotten that this was an experiment and it became habitual. And, to my dentist's dismay (I am sure), at the next check up, my gums didn't scream silently in fear. And the hygienist seemed surprised that she wasn't causing a possible need for blood transfusions.

We first make our habits, and then our habits make us" John Dryden

One hears all of the time about breaking habits -- vices that one needs to rid one's self of in order to live a better, fuller life. Earlier this week I was at my regular check-up, being told that everything was looking fantastic in my mouth and I was still cavity free (29 years and counting!). While perusing the motivational posters that my dentist has decorated his ceiling with, I realized that my defensive and stubborn attitude allowed me to create a habit in my life that may possibly have added a few years on and definitely creates less blood shed during the war on gingivitis. I also thought about how this one little habit I created takes no time out of my day at all and began brainstorming about other little habits I could start implementing.

Flossing every day really can change your life. I took control of one little thing years ago, and now feel like I have the power to shape and control more and more in my life.

What's one little habit you have implemented that has created the same feelings in you?

1 comment:

She-Ra said...

I starting writing in a journal when I was 12, and vowed to write SOMETHING - even if it's just a sentence - every night before bed. It may have not directly added years to my life, but it helps clear my mind and deal with stress. I usually can't sleep until I've written something down.