I’ve known for a long time that flossing my teeth is a good way to shut down a binge. But could it actually replace a sugar high altogether?
My dental hygienist would be amazed to read that previous paragraph; I’ve got a long history of going months at a time without remembering to floss. But all that persistent failing was based on the notion of flossing as a hassle, something other people said I should do but that I didn’t feel personally invested in. Given that mindset, it was inevitable that I’d always push it off to some vague point in a fantasy-world future that never arrived.
So what’s different now? Well, for one thing, I made myself floss within a day of my last dental appointment, so that the feeling of having the cleanest possible mouth still lingered in my brain. I haven’t kept up a daily schedule since then, but I’ve flossed often enough to begin associating that task with a good feeling – refreshing not just in the sense of a shower or a cold drink, but almost like hitting a mental “reset” button — rather than a bad one.
One day last week it occurred to me that I wished I’d just flossed my teeth rather than giving in to some temptation or other (that was so meaningful I no longer even remember what it was). It was clear that I would’ve felt better afterward. But for the first time in my life I wondered if it might have felt better as substitute behavior rather than the usual mopping up after a crime scene.
Now, I can’t honestly say that wielding a string of floss activates dopamine in my brain in the same way as thrusting a brownie into my gaping maw. But that sugar rush comes with an equal dose of present-tense guilt that increasingly draws my attention and drains away some of the pleasure even as I’m chewing. Whereas flossing is getting closer to a purely positive act, with the “hassle” factor decreasing all the time.
Is this notion just another stray thought from a fantasy-world future? Maybe. But it’s interesting to think about.