Cited in Yahoo Health – Why Do We Find Flossing So Torturous?

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 2.38.54 PMWhy Do We Find Flossing So Torturous?

Healthy habit formation can be surprisingly hard, and no where is this more evident than in forming a flossing habit – one that eludes up to a third of us according to recent study.

So why is it so challenging to do this one simple thing? It isn’t so simple. We don’t like to be told what to do, and we particularly don’t invest in outcomes we can’t measure or see. Flossing is a complicated, and humbling topic. I was pleased to help out on this piece by Korin Miller on the perils of psychological resistance.

There are a lot of factors at play, says licensed clinical psychologist Alicia Clark, PsyD, and the biggest one is that we just don’t see the point.

“We like to be in control and see the results of our efforts paying off,” she tells Yahoo Health. “With flossing, we can’t see the immediate results and often don’t get feedback on our efforts until we are in the dentist’s chair.”

People also feel a lot of guilt when they don’t floss.

“We don’t like feeling like failures, especially when it comes to something so seemingly easy as flossing,” says Clark. That feeling builds and can actually make us feel a little anxious, she says.

And if all else fails, Clark says to flat-out bribe yourself: “Adding any bit of pleasure can really help build your intrinsic willingness to floss.”

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Alicia H. Clark, PsyD