The majority of us have set routines that we adhere to. Whether it’s what we do when we wake up in the morning or the first thing we do when we get home from work. Our brain is structured to create these “shortcuts” for us.
They make our life easier and mean that we don’t have to think about every single thing we do.
However, unfortunately, some of these shortcuts aren’t actually that good for us. Because our brains like to take the easy route we often miss doing the things we need to do. This is why many of us find “we don’t have time” for something or fall into bad habits.
When it comes to our oral health routine if you’re forgetting to brush your teeth, brushing at irregular times, not brushing your teeth for more than 2 minutes, drinking too many sugary drinks or just never managing to floss one of the major causes is your brain. We know we should do these things but our brain has other ideas.
So now let’s look at some hacks to retrain your brain – so that your routine is as perfect as possible.
Creating a new loop
According to neuroscientific research habits are composed of three parts – the cue, the routine, the reward. The cue prompts you to do something, the routine is what you do and the reward is why you do it.
For example, skipping your evening teeth routine. The cue would be you want to sleep, the routine is you put on your pyjamas, the reward is more time in bed and quicker sleep.
The most effective way to change a routine is to keep the reward but change the precursors.
So in this case we want to maximise our sleep (the reward) and increase the time we have for teeth cleaning and flossing.
How can we achieve this?
In this example there are a huge number of ways you could create this new pattern. What will work for you will largely be determined by your evening routine. You could try moving dinner forward 10 minutes, making sure you organise your clothes for the morning as soon as you get back from work or you could limit your evening TV time.
The key here is to find a way to change that allows you to incorporate the new routine easily into your lifestyle. The new cue will be wanting to sleep, the routine will be brushing your teeth and the reward will be sleep.
Because we have increased the time available in our evening it will be easier to incorporate our new routine without shortcutting. We might also find that we could clean our teeth at a different time to create an entirely new routine.
Keeping the routine
Most people fail their routines within the first week. It takes at least 2 months for a routine to become habit and you need to stick at it – even with set-backs. Below you can find some of my best tips for sticking to your new habit.
1. More rewards
Reward yourself for milestone achievements – 3 days, 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months. This can be a physical reward and should scale with the milestone. If you hit 2 months continuously reward yourself with a big treat.
2. Chart your progress
Put a chart on your fridge or in another prominent place and tick off every day you achieve your goals. This gives you a great visual cue and lets your track your rewards.
3. Set an alarm
Set a repeating alarm on your phone to give yourself a cue that it’s time to brush your teeth. Set a reminder alarm five minutes after the first, and then another.
4. Ask for help
Asking others to remind you and help push you is always a good idea. It will help keep you motivated.
5. Coach yourself
One of the best ways to achieve your goals is to coach yourself through them. In our case this can be as simple as thinking about the health and hygiene benefits of brushing and flossing throughout the day.
Hopefully these hacks will help you to get a better oral health routine up and running. We wish you the very best of luck in mastering all the habits you want using these techniques.