Willpower is like a muscle that needs to be trained to get stronger and it also needs the right amount of rest and recovery to recharge.
The APA (American Psychology Association) defines willpower as:
- The ability to delay gratification, resisting short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.
- The capacity to override an unwanted thought, feeling or impulse.
- Conscious, effortful regulation of the self by the self.
- A limited resource capable of being depleted.
The science shows that engaging in too many unhealthy lifestyle habits weakens our willpower muscle. The good news is that there are some really effective ways to strengthen your willpower muscle which is needed to fight off those unhealthy impulses – and I’ve picked my top 5 to share with you.
“I meditate so that my mind cannot complicate my life.”
As little as 5 minutes a day is enough to put some inches on that willpower muscle of yours and it’s in fact one of the most powerful strategies for stress reduction and increased self control. All you have to do is sit quietly, close your eyes and breathe. If you don’t know how to meditate or your resistant to it I’d recommend the headspace app which people swear by. Learn about it by clicking here.
2) Eat lower glycemic carbohydrates and up the omega 3’s
Junk Food In = Junk Brain. Healthy Food In = Healthy Brain
–Tony Buzan, the founder of the World Memory Championships
You might notice that eating sugary refined snacks leads to eating more refined sugary snacks which leads you to plop on the couch with a “sugar” hangover. On the other hand a variety of vegetables, fruits and mood boosting healthy fats high in Omega 3’s give the brain a high dose of vital nutrients that feeds and refuels the willpower muscle.
3) Breathe to fuel (oxygenate) the brain
Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again
– L. Frank Baum
There’s no better way to bring in more oxygen to your brain (which it needs) than through slow controlled breathing.
I’m a big fan of Dr. Weil’s Breathing exercises which include the 4-7-8 Relaxing-Breath in which you inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds with a whoosh sound. Dr. Weil recommends performing the breathing exercise no more than 4 times twice a day for a total of 8 breaths.
Early to bed, early to rise keeps (us) healthy, wealthy and wise
– Benjamin Franklin
People who don’t get enough sleep are likely to crave junk food and give in to other unhealthy habits. When the brain is sleep deprived, it’s inefficient at utilizing the energy it needs to function effectively signaling the body to eat more when you don’t really need too. Getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is ideal for most of us. A wise thing to do is to turn off your technological devices 1 hour before bed and perhaps utilize the breathing technique in number 3 if you’ve had stressful day and your mind is spinning.
5) Get outside and exercise
I love hiking in the mountains in Aspen. Breathing the clean, fresh air is great. Plus, it gives me a cardiovascular workout and firms my legs.
Exercise of any kind will help strengthen the willpower muscle but researchers have found that “green exercise” such as hiking, walking and mountain biking in a little greenery has an extra effect on our refueling and strengthening willpower. So get outside when you can!
All these strategies are very effective at strengthening your willpower muscle. To give it even more power though it’s important to remember that clarity towards what you want and wanting what you want badly enough will be difference as to whether you’ll implement these habits and benefit from them.