Pitner Orthodontics 2019

THE STRAIGHT UP

September 2019

New Year, New Habits The Trick to Building Better Habits This Year

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love that first morning chill as the summer winds down. For me, back-to-school season is the real start of the new year, probably because I spent a big chunk of my life going to school. By the time I graduated fromdental school, I was in the 23rd grade. Even though I’mnot in school anymore, there’s something about fall and the back-to-school season that feels inspiring.The new school year is full of endless possibilities. With the right school supplies, you can launch yourself to themoon! The beginning of a new school year is a time when a lot of families try to start better habits. “This year isn’t going to be like last year,” I hear parents vow. “Bedtimes aren’t going to be a struggle, and we are going to get out the door on time everymorning.”There’s somuch optimism in these promises. However, after a fewweeks, I inevitably have parents inmy office with war stories about trying to get their kids ready for school. I fully believe the new school year really can be the start of a new chapter for families.The trick is to have the right approach. A lot of parents “I FULLY BELIEVE THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR REALLY CAN BE THE START OF A NEW CHAPTER FOR FAMILIES.”

get up on the first day of school ready to change things through sheer force of will.Their drive is admirable, but they burn out quickly because you can’t change your habits overnight through willpower alone. Instead of trying to change everything all at once, human beings respond better when we break up big goals into smaller steps. TheGreaterGoodScienceCenter at UC Berkeley has a great article about their “happiness habit tracker.” Dr. ChristineCarter writes about how families can establish better habits together by breaking their goals into small “turtle steps.” Each step is a positive change, and families should take each turtle step one week at a time.With each successful step, we become motivated tomake bigger and better changes in our lives.Visit Bit.ly/HappinessHabitTracker to read the full article for yourself. I highly recommend it. Dr. Carter has some great tips for building habits that I have usedmyself. A few years ago, I wanted to start a new morning routine. I wanted to get up earlier and exercise, but I couldn’t just set my alarm and expect to hit the gymevery day. Instead, I started small with turtle steps that were so easy, I couldn’t not follow through. I’ve seen people recommend starting with just one pushup or twominutes of exercise, something so simple it feels like it takes more effort not to do it.

Times featuredThe Scientific 7-MinuteWorkout, which anyone could do at home with just a chair. I thought, “Yeah, I do just sevenminutes in themorning!”Over time I slowly got used to exercising for sevenminutes and developedmy morning routine from there. Now I go to a boot camp workout three days a week.When I wake up feeling tired, it doesn’t even occur tome to skip boot camp, because it’s become a habit. By the time I’mat the gym, I’m ready to go. I would have gone a couple of times, but eventually, I would have fallen back into old habits. Starting out with small steps might feel like you’re not making progress, but it takes time to build strong, long-lasting habits.This is what makes the happiness habit tracker so useful. It emphasizes the importance of turtle steps. Whatever your goals for the new year may be, I encourage you to pursue them.The new school year is a time for a fresh start with new classes, new pencils, new teachers, and new habits. I don’t think this habit would have developed if I jumped right into going to the gym. Maybe

My first turtle step was to exercise for just seven minutes eachmorning. In 2013,The NewYork

–Dr. Leslie Pitner

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