Not to be the girl who cried “life-changing,” but making a habit of flossing every night changed my life. For years, every time I went to the dentist he would say, “You really need to start flossing every night,” and for years, I would say, “Okay!” and promptly forget on purpose. I avoided it for a number of reasons, including but not limited to the fact that I hated how messy it was (plaque is gross and the string would always get tangled up in my fingers and then I would have gross plaque fingers), and I found it extremely boring.
The thing is, for years, every time I went to the dentist he would also say, “You have a cavity.” I complained about this inevitability bitterly until it occurred to me that maybe it didn’t have to be inevitable. Maybe I could try flossing every night and see if that helped.
Spoiler alert: IT DID. I haven’t had a cavity since, I kid you not. I’m pretty annoyed at myself for waiting until my mid-twenties to make flossing a daily habit, but I guess sometimes you have to learn the hard way. Two things that helped me transition it from begrudging task to maniacal obsession (because yes, now I freak out if I don’t do it): 1. I purchased an infinite supply of little floss picks, which are way less gross to use than long pieces of tangly string, and 2. I prop my phone on the edge of my sink and watch Instagram stories to keep me entertained for the approximate 60 seconds in which the otherwise dull activity is occurring.
To kick off habits month on Man Repeller, I asked the rest of the team to tell me about a habit they’re so glad they maintain. Read their answers below, and share yours in the comments.
Who made this a habit? Leandra Medine Cohen, Founder
Why is it so great? It seems like the first self-care/love/respect practice I have ever actually stuck with. Even meditation, which makes me feel so great, I have a hard time turning into a genuine habit. The ritual of writing three things I’m grateful for + what made the day great + what could have made it better is quick, structured and really forces me to extract the highs from my days, and either gloss over the lows or spin them into highs (example: I’m grateful I had a nervous breakdown when my daughter refused to latch on to my boob because now I know crying with her definitely doesn’t help!).
How do you keep up with it? My friend bought me a book for my birthday that laid out the daily practice, and it seemed easy enough, so I started doing it and, after a while, I’d feel a pang of guilt if I didn’t do it, so it became a habit, something to do right before breakfast and then again after dinner. For someone trying to develop their own habits, I suggest starting really small. I don’t journal for hours on end. It only takes me about five minutes a day, super digestible and easily consumable.
Who also made this a habit? Patty Carnevale, Head of Partnerships
Why is it so great? It’s really nice to have a correspondence with just myself and get in touch with noticing small things. It’s eye-opening to realize how my answers can reflect what I need/want to be doing at the moment: celebrating something, cheering myself up, resting in the exercise. It helps me practice awareness and perspective.
How do you keep up with it? It’s something I tried off and on but I’ve firmly committed to it for 2018 and am loving it. Oprah has a great two-part podcast where she interviews Shawn Achor, a Harvard-trained researcher, about the science of positive psychology, and that conversation really sealed the deal for me. The realization that nothing is too small to note helped me ease in. One of my entries is literally a one-liner from an episode of Grace & Frankie that made me laugh out loud when I watched it that day.
Writing Letters and Postcards
Who made this a habit? Starling Irving, Social Media Intern
Why is it so great? Everyone loves getting mail! Calling and texting faraway friends is always a good way to check in on each other, but I think a letter is a more concrete way to remind people that you care about them. It feels nice to hold a letter and know that it was physically held by the person it’s from. Also, you can decorate it with stickers or drawings. Making cute mail for friends is also a calming activity for me at the end of a long day. It’s a little craft. Plus, writing a few things down about my own life is a nice way to reflect on my day. It’s like journaling, but for somebody else.
How do you keep up with it? I love Cavallini stickers. Buying nice stickers and leaving the tin somewhere within eyesight always serves as a good reminder to spend a little time with my typewriter and envelopes so I can make pretty things to send off to other parts of the world.
Making My Bed Every Morning
Who made this a habit? Jasmin Aujla, Senior Partnerships Strategist
Why is it so great? In the morning it feels like step one of getting myself together for the day. It also means that I can’t crawl back into bed once it’s made. In the evening, I am so grateful that morning Jasmin made the bed so beautifully for me. What a treat.
How do you keep up with it? At this point I’ve been doing it for so long that I do it without thinking, and the thought of not doing it makes me slightly uneasy. I think when forming a “good” habit you have to be clear in why you’re doing it and what you want to achieve vs. forcing yourself to do something good just because you think you should. Genuinely wanting to make it happen is the best starting point.
Who also made this a habit? Crystal Anderson, Operations Manager
Why is it so great? It’s not the most groundbreaking habit, but it is rooted in deeper self-care habits that I really try to maintain for my mental health and wellness. I work a lot and spend a great deal of time outside of my home, so I really do think of my apartment, specifically my bedroom, as a respite from all of the “noise.” There really are few things greater than getting home, taking a quick shower and getting into an already made bed, instead of looking over and seeing a pile of sheets and chaos. It’s simple and it makes me feel like I’m truly getting into bed as opposed to just falling back into the same place where I woke up.
How do you keep up with it? Again, BORING ALERT: I really learned a lot about productivity from a book I read a while back called Getting Things Done. There’s a section that says if you can do a task in under two minutes you should get it out of the way immediately, so that’s how I started the habit of making my bed every day. It literally takes me 60 seconds and even if I’m in a rush, that minute isn’t going to make me or break me, so I just get it done. Besides, coming home to a made bed makes me feel like an adult-ass adult which is really half the battle these days!
FaceTiming My Parents on Sundays
Who made this a habit? Matt Little, Head of Operations
Why is it so great? It provides a clear and understood mutual expectation of when we’ll catch up, which circumvents any potential guilt from not being available during busy weeks.
How do you keep up with it? By communicating and setting clear boundaries.
Creating a Playlist of Music I Like Each Season
Who made this a habit? Haley Nahman, Deputy Editor
Why is it so great? It started as a way to group together music I was enjoying during a particular time, but it’s ended up serving as a sort of time capsule of my life, organized by season. Similar to the strange power of a smell to yank me back to a moment I thought I’d forgotten, songs have the power to place me in an emotional moment I’d left in the past. I’m often able to channel old emotions (eagerness, melancholy, joy, wistfulness) by simply turning on the playlists best associated with them, and sometimes that really comes in handy when I’m writing.
How do you keep up with it? I started doing it around 2011, and loved having it so much that I kept going. It’s also just convenient to have one playlist with all the music I’m enjoying at the moment — it gives me peace of mind to collect them somewhere so I don’t lose them. In that sense it’s been easy to keep it up, but the biggest payoff comes at the end of the year when I have a sort of musical timeline of all the music I loved and why. I have a fear of forgetting my life and feeling untethered in the world; this habit helps staves that off.
Closing the Toilet Seat Before I Flush
Who made this a habit? Louisiana Gelpi, Visual Coordinator
Why is it so great? It stops the toilet water/bacteria from getting onto the things by my sink (like my toothbrush!!!!).
How do you keep up with it? I have to thank my mom for reminding me when I first started doing it. But also just making a conscious effort.
Waking Up Early
Who made this a habit? Amelia Diamond, Head of Creative
Why is it so great? I have never, ever been a morning person. Waking up used to be excruciating for me. My whole life! I used to feel asleep-ish until 12 p.m., if not all day long. I wouldn’t get going mentally until the evening. I used to do my best writing at 2 a.m., which caused all sorts of weird chain reactions.
But as my days and life got busier, and I needed to fit more things into a day, I realized the morning was the only place I could literally “make time.” So I started waking up at 6:30 a.m., which allows me to fit in a workout, have a fast shower, catch up on news, catch up on work, sit on my bed and do nothing for a second, then head out to my first meeting of the day, which is usually around 9:30 or 10. (I am trying to start waking up at 6 a.m. now, but I’ve got to get better at the going-to-bed-early thing.) Once I actually get up and out of bed, early mornings are hard to interrupt. No one’s online, no one’s texting. It’s quieter outside, traffic’s lighter. I am so much more productive (both personally and work-wise) than I am during any other part of day.
How do you keep up with it? I had to teach myself to be a morning person — and then I taught myself to be an even earlier morning person. Then I started sneaking workouts in there. It’s a habit for sure, but I still have to think about it, practice it and work on it. Right now I’ve been waking up about half an hour later than I’d like to. The Daylight Savings time change kinda messed with me? Now that I know I can do it, though, I’m not intimidated by the idea of trying it. I just have to remind myself that the worst part of waking up is literally the waking up part. Once you’re up and out of bed with your face washed and teeth brushed, it’s great.
Cleaning My Apartment Twice a Week
Who made this a habit? Elizabeth Tamkin, Market Assistant
Why is it so great? It means I never build up so much clutter that my apartment becomes unlivable. I like organization and hate dust and also love the smell of Clorox (…is that bad? probably yes) so deep cleaning once a week and then just dusting and organizing another day is VERY NECESSARY! Also I have a dog.
How do you keep up with it? Honestly, it’s innate to my personality to love scheduling cleaning sessions. I actually look forward to them. It’s a designated time to NOT think too hard about other things, and I like that it keeps me from just messing around on my computer or sitting.
What’s a habit you’re glad you keep and how do you keep it?
Photo via Getty Images.