Brush Your Teeth Backwards - the Art of Breaking Routines


When you first read this title, what comes to your mind? How the heck has brushing your teeth backwards going to give me any value today? Well, let me try and make this worthwhile. Research shows that being stuck in routines leads to boredom. Prolonged boredom starts to lead to a reduction of “happy chemicals”, namely serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline - all mood enhancing chemicals the body relies on. Let’s add the day-to-day challenges of work, driving/public transportation, email, environmental challenges and technology that follows you around everywhere, and you have the modern-day human: busy, tired and relying on routines to get through the day.

Let’s think about this a little more. When we practice the same routines day-in and day-out, we program our brains for repetitiveness. We reinforce the circuits that we practiced the day before. Do this for five days per week and we get quite good at things! If we have established routines, our brains remain very happy and will guide us to a reasonable daily outcome that has it’s stress, but even those we eventually get used to. After a while, we get too comfortable and let ourselves behave in auto-pilot mode.

When we are tired, stressed and bored, it becomes difficult to change anything in life. It becomes difficult to start anything new. Boredom starts creating tension at home and at work as well as reinforcing our thoughts and beliefs that things have to be done a certain way for them to work. We hire coaches to help us deal with stubbornness and the “smart” syndrome (the need to be always right). We get caught-up in what we believe to be “success” and we aim for more of it! We forget how to think laterally and creatively. We get cranky and are annoyed with anything that doesn’t fit in our routine. We forget about people. In other words, we start experiencing apathy.

Think about it. When you wake-up in the morning you probably get off on the same side of the bed. You put your slippers on and head to the bathroom. You eventually look in the mirror and say, “Oh hell”. You start counting grey hairs or wrinkles and put on moisturizer, primer, foundation, concealer, blush, highlighter…… Eventually you make coffee, eat the same breakfast and head-off to brush your teeth up-and-down, left-and-right. You head out the door on the same side-walk at the same time, get on the same train/bus. You greet the same people and get to work at about the same time. You start by checking email and so on and so forth….. the day goes on. When you get home, we do it all in reverse!!


It’s no wonder we get bored with life! For once, let’s do things in a different order. When you wake-up in the morning, instead of getting out of bed on the same side, crawl over your partner and get off on the other side!! If s/he screams, “What the hell are you doing??” you say “I’m changing my life!!”. Instead of checking the mirror, put on some track clothes and go jogging. When you come back you swing the front door open and say, “Buongiorno Principessa! Ti voglio bene”! Then tell your partner you’re taking them out for breakfast. At this point they’d have already reached for the phone to call a Doctor, or they’ll check the calendar and notice it’s not Saturday!!!

Spontaneity is a great way to create joy and keep the magic alive in your life and in other people’s life. Do something different every day. When your partner wakes-up, make them breakfast or greet them in French! Write some positive words on a post it and stick it on people’s desks before they get to the office. Say hello to someone you don’t know and compliment them on their clothes or hair. Instead of taking the same train every day, take a different train and walk on the opposite side of the sidewalk. Instead of dreading your wrinkles every morning, change your self talk and say hello to the new lines! Tell them you love them! Mean it! I always say a wrinkle is a sign that you you’ve learned the secret of life: how to laugh. Someone else says they are a reminder to love more, live more and learn more.

I once knew a colleague who would anonymously write positive messages on unused coffee cups in the office. Things like, “Be happy today”. Or “You have wonderful hair”. I even saw one with a quotation that said, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” (Helen Keller).

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.
— Helen Keller

Greet people with enthusiasm when you see them. Tap them on the shoulder when you shake their hand - you know my mother used to say to tap someone on the shoulder affirms that they are there and they are important to you. Isn’t it wonderful that the simple things in life, which cost nothing, can have the greatest impact to someone’s day?

Next time you feel like you’re stuck or bored with life, you’re probably right! Add surprise to your day - make a journal and write down ideas, things you tried. Perhaps brushing your teeth backwards will help you remember to have fun today.

Good luck and by all means, please share any ideas that worked for you!

Gab Ciminelli

This is a topic in my “Love@Work” Program and Talk. For more information feel free to connect or download the program guide for more information.

Gabriele Ciminelli