Earlier this week I wrote about new research that has just come out of the US relating to self-control and willpower.
The study highlighted that while it appears willpower is a finite energy source, you can do exercises to increase your supply. A little like building muscle at the gym.
Here, Belle Beth Cooper from Buffer talks about the 6 best ways you can strengthen your willpower in every day life, as well as a couple of exercises to get you on your way.
1. Increase your capacity for pressure: Learn how to manage stress
Being under high levels of stress means that our body’s energy is used up in acting instinctively and making decisions based on short-term outcomes. Stopping to take a few deep breaths when we feel overwhelmed or tempted can be a great start in managing our stress levels and improving our willpower.
2. Encourage yourself to stick to your plan
Self-affirmation can even help you to have more self-control when you’re running out, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. A good example of this is the difference between telling yourself “I can’t” and “I don’t.” Taking back control of the situation using the phrase “I don’t” has been shown to be more effective at helping you to stick to your plan and break bad habits: Every time you tell yourself “I can’t”, you’re creating a feedback loop that is a reminder of your limitations.
This terminology indicates that you’re forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do. So try telling yourself that you don’t do that 'bad habit', rather than punishing yourself by saying I can’t.
3. Get more sleep to help your brain manage energy better
Sleep deprivation (even just getting less than six hours a night) is a kind of chronic stress that impairs how the body and brain use energy. Daniel Kripke an acclaimed sleep researcher, found in a recent study that
people who sleep between 6.5 hours and 7.5 hours a night, live the longest, are happier and most productive.
4. Meditate (for as little as 8 weeks)
Meditation has also been linked to increasing the reserve of willpower we have available, as well as improving attention, focus, stress management and self-awareness.
5. Better exercise and nutrition: The most ignored route to higher willpower
Another great way to train the brain, that is often easily ignored or undervalued, yet can make you a lot more resilient to stress, and thus boost willpower, is regular physical exercise. Both relaxing, mindful exercise like yoga and intense physical training can provide these benefits. Not only will exercise and good nutrition improve your willpower, but they’ll make you feel better as well. Exercise in particular is known for making us happy by releasing endorphins.
6. Postpone things for later to gain focus on what’s important now
Postponing something you really shouldn’t have can be effective if you’re trying to break a bad habit. In Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. Roy F. Baumeister explains that people who tell themselves “not now, but later,” are generally less tormented by the temptation of something they are trying to avoid.
Rewarding yourself for holding out is a great exercise to begin. It can be a great way to encourage the development of willpower. Like these poor kids with their marshmallows.
Another exercise to try is to choose your food mindfully. By choosing your food mindfully, you exercise your willpower, with every meal you take. Choose your food in such a way to make sure that you are not harming your body, or your mind while you are eating. Or at the end of your shower everyday, blast yourself with cold water. This will challenge your comfort zones.
For a whole list of these exercises, and more, check out Wiki How for some great tips.