One of my New Year’s resolutions this past year was to floss daily. Please don’t trip as you rush to figure out how to meet creative, inspiring and riveting me!
I will be the first person to admit that this resolution errs on the side of boring, and I will also confess that the impetus behind the resolution is as unglamorous as you likely imagine: a desire to improve my gum health.
In an attempt to keep an ounce of pizazz in 2017 (and because I love setting goals), I made approximately 10 other resolutions back in January. At the time, I assumed that flossing would be the tedious resolution, and that I’d feel much more invigorated by the other intentions I set before me. But in an unlikely turn of events, flossing daily has ended up being a thought-provoking, life-expanding and comforting routine.
Think that 10 inches of waxed thread and 90 seconds an evening don’t hold that much potential? Read on!
Five unexpected benefits of flossing daily
1) It is disheartening to get to the end of a day and find that I can’t cross anything off my to-do list. I started a lesson plan, but didn’t have time to finish it. I called the insurance company, but had to leave a message instead of resolving my issue. I began cleaning the house, but only got around to dusting the living room. Flossing is an easy, guaranteed way to feel as if I have accomplished something each day. It enables me to end my day on a positive, successful note.
2) Likely, we have all experienced the imposter phenomenon, or moments marked by our inability to internalize our accomplishments, and the accompanying persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” According to psychologists, highly achieving women are particularly inclined to experience the phenomenon. I have felt like an imposter at work before, and I also often feel like an imposter as an adult. Thoughts such as, “They’re trusting me to ensure that there is no misbehavior on this field trip to Six Flags?!” or “Wait, I’m the one responsible for having the oil changed in my car?!” have crossed my mind before! These questions always give me a jolt of panic. It’s a bit silly, but flossing—in all of its responsible and routine splendor— makes me feel like less of an imposter as an adult.
3) Flossing may be tedious and boring, but the fact is that there are many tedious and boring things that I will have to do over the course of my life, from taxes to mammograms to packing kids’ lunches to driving elderly parents to their doctor’s appointments. Practicing discipline in a small and relatively unimportant area of my life prepares me to practice discipline in the areas that matter much more.
4) Before I began flossing, I always felt apprehensive about visiting the dentist. I knew that the hygienist would admonish my failure to floss, and I worried that I would have cavities. Thanks to the success of my flossing resolution, I didn’t experience any of my usual pre-appointment jitters before my most recent trip to the dentist. In fact, I felt excited to show off my well-flossed teeth! I don’t know that flossing is actually making any difference for my teeth (after all, I didn’t ever have cavities in my pre-flossing state) but my new routine is certainly good for my mental health as it has eliminated a major source of anxiety.
5) There are so many circumstances in life that we can’t control. Natural disasters, tragic accidents and cancer happen. In an existence in which so many things are out of our control, retaining a sense of agency is of vital importance. To at least some extent, we need to feel as if we are in the driver’s seat of our own lives. Amidst the many unknowns of health, national security, and the well being of my family and friends, flossing is one variable that I can change in order to impact one area of my life for the better.
My experience with this goal has taught me that there is often more to a goal than meets the eye…or in this case, the tooth! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). We set out to accomplish one thing, and end up gaining unexpected benefits.
And, I’d be remiss not to add that on my recent trip to the dentist, he gave me an A+ on my gums.
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Teresa lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where she works as a Director of Faith Formation at a Catholic Church and dabbles in hospital chaplaincy. She has a BA in English, a Master’s in Divinity, and a passion for thinking about the intersection of spirituality, self-improvement, and well-being. Her perfect day includes slowly savoring a morning cup of coffee, reading for work and for fun, and receiving snail mail.