5 Easy Ways to Boost Your Willpower
Are you determined to tackle a project or task or lifestyle change, but can’t quite talk your brain into it? It’s all about distractions, and not allowing them in!
Many of you will be familiar with the famous ‘Stanford Marshmallow Experiment’ but if not, it was an experiment to study willpower and delayed gratification in children aged 3 to 6. Conducted in the late 60s by Stanford University psychologist, Walter Mischel, each child was offered a choice between one small reward provided immediately or two small rewards if they waited around 15 minutes. 20 years later the children were revisited to assess their life-satisfaction and levels of happiness. It’s well documented that those who had resisted the temptation of the immediate reward (a marshmallow, but sometimes a cookie or pretzel) went on to be successful in their lives and careers and rated themselves significantly higher on satisfaction scale. Those who gave in were less happy on their path.
So as it turns out, willpower is a better predictor of success in life than even resilience or emotional intelligence!
To get you going on those 2018 goals, here are my 5 tips for boosting your willpower this winter – it’s time to sharpen your focus!
There’s a landslide of scientific info that backs up why we should all be meditating and the benefits are infinite. It might sound like the furthest type of activity from your lifestyle and approach to life, but trust me, just give it a shot and then tell me I’m wrong!
Here are 2 kinds of meditation you can try. The first, called focused attention or mindful meditation, is where you focus on one specific thing—it could be your breathing, a sensation in your body or a particular object outside of you. The point of this type of meditation is to focus strongly on one point and continually bring your attention back to that focal point when it wanders.
The other type is called open-monitoring meditation, where you pay attention to all of the things happening around you—you simply notice everything without reacting.
You see, meditation allows the brain to stop processing information as actively as it normally would. And because meditation is a practice in focusing our attention and being aware of when it drifts, this actually improves our focus when we’re not meditating, as well!
Slower, deeper breathing is the key to reducing stress, to calming the mind and to regaining focus when you’ve lost it or can’t quite hang on to it. Try to reduce your breathing to 4-6 breaths per minute to slow your heartbeat. It will lower your cortisone and other stress hormones.
It’s all about the levels and about being well-fed. Running low on sugar is a sure-fire way to destroy willpower! Feeding your brain with performance-enhancing snacks filled with protein, B vitamins, complex carbohydrates and Omega-3s. This will prevent brain fog, mood swings, improve your concentration, keep your blood glucose steady, and make your brain fire on all cylinders.
We need both serotonin and dopamine (chemical neurotransmitters) for willpower, and pretty much ANY exercise creates them both! It’s much easier to say no to a cake if you’ve been out for a run or walk than if you’ve been lying on the sofa! And anyway, central heating isn’t good for us! In December most of us eat insanely larger amounts than our bodies are used to, so that ALONE should be a reason to nip out for a brisk walk (NOT to buy more cake though!). But aside from that, commit yourself to being 30 minutes more active most days than you currently are, and you’ll notice a more upbeat ‘something’ about you.
How many of you are getting by on 5-6 hours’ sleep a night, 7 if you’re lucky? A very subjective topic, you might think, as surely some people can survive on much less and still lead busy lives but actually, no, the facts are there! There’s firm evidence to prove that if we get just one extra hour a night, it significantly improves your willpower. Sustained lack of good quality sleep will be affecting you in ways you don’t even know about. For a start it makes us less irritable, and it makes us more diligent employees/business-owners, better, more attentive, less dangerous drivers and far more patient teachers!
And anyway, during sleep, your hormones get balance, your brain gets renewed, your cells regenerate and your immune system gets strong – what is there to argue about?
Go on, cut some of that idle screen-surfing time this winter and treat yourself to FAR more beneficial pillow time!
No more excuses
So, no more excuses! You may say you don’t have time to meditate, but I beg to differ, as the difference will be remarkable in a short space of time. I am living proof of this and have convinced many of my friends to test the benefits for themselves.
As for the other four tips, you KNOW deep down already that you absolutely DO have time for breathing, for glucose regulation, for exercise (in any form) and for a touch more sleep – you might just need to be brave and approach these things a little differently….
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