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I've always been a dedicated and compliant tooth brusher, but I was never really encouraged to floss.
A few years ago, I went to see my dentist, and he said to me, "Listen, your teeth are fine but you need to start flossing."
Okay, I said, "No problem, how hard can flossing be?"
I got all the kits, I bought all the tape, the sticks, everything.
Day one, I did it, day two, I did it.
Day three, I didn't do it.
And then the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, and I was back at my dentist.
Again, he told me I needed to floss.
Some nights I did, some nights I didn't, there were so many excuses.
I'm tired, it's boring.
I'm going to punch myself in the face again by accident.
But now I'm a dedicated flosser.
So what changed?
Sean Covey, author of the best-selling book, "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" once said...
"Depending on what they are, our habits will either make us or break us."
"We become what we repeatedly do."
Some of these habits are helpful and healthy, and some not so good.
But what they all have in common is that we're unaware we're doing them because they become automatic and repetitive.
Our habits combine like steps on a journey in life.
They determine our direction, and that's pretty scary considering most of the time we're not really consciously in control of them.
So why are habits so difficult to break, and new ones so difficult to make?
Neuroscience tells us our brains set up things called habit loops.
These habit loops consist of three stages.
Stage one is a cue.
This is a trigger, it could be from your external environment or your internal environment.
For example, your emotional state.
Stage two is a routine behaviour.
It's the action you take in response to that cue.
Stage three is the reward, so the release of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure.
Because you've had that release of dopamine which has made you feel good, you're more likely to repeat that behaviour in response to the cue next time.
And that's why a habit is hard to break and hard to make, because those neural connections are strong.
But the good news is nothing's set in stone.
Breaking old habits and making new ones can be done, but it takes an extraordinary amount of self-awareness and effort.
So here are some top tips to help you through it and it may even save your gums at the same time.
It worked for me.
Tip one, find your motivation.
Why do you want to change, what are the benefits?
What are the repercussions if you don't change that habit?
And do you want those repercussions?
Write them down and read them often.
Tip two, be specific.
What exactly do you want to achieve and how are you going to do it?
Make space and time in your diary to put the effort towards changing that habit.
Take practical steps that will help you break that cycle of cue and response.
Tip three, small steps are better than giant leaps.
Try the "1% idea" where each day you improve or change something by 1%.
That way you start to see progress, and you're not put off by failure.
Tip four, don't stop when you're on a roll and celebrate your success.
Keep the momentum of that new habit going, however small it is.
The continuous nature of changing something about your behaviour will signal to your brain that this is an important change and one that you need to continue.
Chart your progress and celebrate your achievements with a treat, so you still get that dopamine hit.
Tip five, be patient.
A study in 2009 showed that on average, it takes 66 days to form a new habit.
With some easier habits being formed in 18 days, and some harder ones being formed in 254 days.
So changing habits can change your life.
I think that once you notice a habit is unhelpful and you know why you want to change it, then really, the rest is a piece of cake.
So good luck, go forth and break some habits.
Thanks for watching.
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Five tips to get a new habit to stick | BBC Ideas

3164 Folder Collection
Annie Chien published on January 16, 2020    Annie Chien translated    adam reviewed
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