Floss Picks and Exercise

Somewhere in the last week I read that the point of exercise is to teach you how small, consistent efforts create results. Exercise is one of those habits I’m still practicing so I look to flossing. Flossing is a very small habit. Two minutes, twice per day will let you keep your teeth until you die. The action now is very small and easy to forget, the benefit is very far off in the future and you experience the benefit as two negatives. First, your hygienist won’t be upset with your gumline and second, your teeth won’t fall out. I have never been a flosser. I have admired flossers, wished I could be a flosser, and wondered how they established the habit.

Last year I read about keeping floss picks in a soap dish on the counter as a way of “smoothing the path” to flossing. I had tried leaving rolls of floss in my desk drawer to make it convenient to floss while I surfed or caught up on social media. In the drawer, it slipped my mind.  Floss picks were something I rejected out of hand as “cheating”. It’s irrational, but human behavior. Reasons. Because. Stuff. Trying this new path meant acquiring an extra soap dish and swallowing some pride, but I was really wanting to be a flosser. The universe delivered a soap dish to me, in the form of a friend who had purchased a soap dish in the wrong color and hates to throw anything away. It worked. Leaving a soap dish full of floss picks on my bathroom counter gave me a quick and easy way to remember to floss every time I use the sink. For the first time in my life, I have healthy gums.

We believe the way to establish new habits is to “harness the elephant,” create an emotional response, and then “direct the rider” and “smooth the path”, use the rational mind to direct energy and make it as easy as possible to accomplish the task. It worked for me and flossing. How can I make this same approach work for exercising?

There is the “ideal” workout. My ideal workout involves two or more hours of my day and a trip to the gym. It also runs into my guilt at taking two hours away from household tasks, which is silly. Because human. Stuff. Reasons. This is a bigger commitment than flossing. I like working out. It’s also scary. What if it doesn’t pay off? But I know it does. Because flossing. So I made it smaller. I will creep up on my guilt and fear, feel them in small doses, and so conquer the world. Yoga. Every day. The smallest practice counts and it will all add up.

The yoga mat and block are on my back porch. It’s a pleasant place to practice. For a while I tried practicing after my morning house routine, but then the day was fairly far along and it didn’t work. Now practice comes first. We shall see.

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