I personally love flossing, and I have strong opinions about what kind of floss to use, but a friend who had read that post asked me, “Edward, how do I make flossing a habit?”
I recently read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and Duhigg repeats throughout his book that a habit has three things: a cue, a routine, and a reward. In my friend’s case, we want to introduce the new routine of flossing, so we need to establish a cue and a reward to make this habit stick.
Food is prone to getting stuck between my molars (I blame having braces as a kid), so for me, the cue might be feeling that there’s food stuck between my teeth, the routine is flossing, and the reward is the great feeling when there’s no more food stuck between my teeth.
For others, I’m going to suggest the following: the cue will be your inclination to brush your teeth (which I’m going to assume is already a habit), the routine is flossing, and the reward will be letting yourself brush your teeth. Thus, in order to brush your teeth, you need to floss first. If you don’t floss, then you don’t get to brush your teeth.
In his book, Duhigg talks about the success of Pepsodent; in large part, Pepsodent was successful because it was the first toothpaste to provide a cool, tingling sensation. This sensation was the reward that drove the formation of the habit of regular tooth brushing. So why not try to co-opt this reward to establish the new habit of flossing?
I’d love to hear how this works if anyone tries it. Did this help you establish flossing as a habit? Or do you have any other ideas about how to make flossing a habit?