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Boosting Willpower

Research suggests that there are things that we can do to improve our willpower and self control. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to turn on and off our desires at will and become ‘Masters of our Domain?’

Good self control and willpower is linked to life success in just about every way you can measure it including health and fitness goals, attractiveness, careers and of course relationships. Research now suggests that it can help you to live longer according to Dr Roy Baumeister, psychology professor and an expert in willpower from Florida State University.

We know that there are many beneficial things we can do in life such as eating healthily, exercising and avoiding toxins such as alcohol, sweets and cigarettes. For some of us it is easy to maintain good habits, for others, it is much harder and given the opportunity to indulge we often will. Is this a sign that our willpower is pretty non existent and are we doomed to a less than optimal life?

According to Baumeister, “It certainly can be improved. It’s not something locked in,” he says.

It's all about changing your mindset.

It’s all about changing your mindset.

Some important facts:

1) Willpower is limited and uses energy.

Self-control uses energy and this can become depleted. After you have resisted a desire a few times you are more likely to fail, even if challenged with a different desire. This has been shown repeatedly in laboratory studies and also in real life, which explains why a dieter might find it easy to avoid eating a doughnut at breakfast, but have a harder time opting for fruit after dinner.

2) Willpower is like a muscle; you can train it.

Willpower gets stronger with regular use interspersed with rests, just like a muscle. Don’t overdo demands on your willpower and deplete vital energy. Engaging in extra self-control activities is great when training willpower. It is important to override habitual ways of doing things and exert deliberate control over your actions. A right handed person could use their left hand for things like brushing their teeth; this has been shown to help. Also trying to maintaining good posture throughout the day.

Exactly which tasks work best and how often they need to be done vary from person to person. One study of 122 smokers found two weeks practicing self-control tasks increased the odds of having successfully quit smoking during the following four weeks by 50 per cent.

A study at Sydney’s Macquarie University showed that undertaking self-control exercises that matter to you, such as monitoring your spending so you save more money, are also effective at boosting willpower because you experience a benefit and are more willing to stick at the exercises for longer, Baumeister says.

3) When willpower is depleted, sugar helps.

The energy that fuels willpower is glucose, a type of sugar that is produced in our bodies from food and is carried in the blood to the brain, muscles and other organs. Baumeister’s research has shown that when levels of glucose in the blood drop, people perform less well on self-control tasks. But when their glucose is replenished with a piece of fruit, their performance picks up for a short time.

Change of Mindset – Seeing a New You.

Some clients of Inspired Chiropractic will also point out that there is another crucial factor. That is a change of ’mindset’. Far from just mental toughness, a change of mindset is actually a ’sea change’ in how we view ourselves.

Fit and athletic people won’t smoke because to them their performance is key and smoking compromises this. It is not an option. This is where meditation, visualization, personal planning and spending time with like-minded people is key. A new mental self image is the most powerful tool of all.

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