I’ve been thinking recently about willpower and its role in health. Research has shown that willpower and self-control are vital to a happy, healthy, and successful life. Interestingly, research also suggests that willpower is not some innate quality that we either have or not. Rather, willpower is like a muscle – and, like a muscle, the longer we use it, the stronger it becomes. However, like a muscle, your willpower should not be overworked!
We can strengthen our will power by ensuring that we are not kept in a constant state of willpower depletion. Exercising self-control is a great way to build willpower, but never giving yourself a break is a good way to lessen your resolve. In addition, you can use your imagination to keep unwanted thoughts at bay and thereby increase our willpower.
As you might expect, stress also greatly affects our willpower. When we are stressed, we tend to fall back on our bad habits like crutches. Bad habits also include unhealthy eating. We can reduce this tendency by training ourselves to respond to stressors with healthier choices, such as listening to calming music, visualizing or viewing calming scenes, or moderate exercise. The more often you do these things, the more likely that these healthy stress-relievers will save you when a major stressor comes along!
Health professionals suggest using mindfulness tools to reflect on eating choices and other health decisions. For example, if you reach for the ice cream at the end of the night, you might try questioning your objective. Is the ice cream acting as a substitute for something, like friendship, or to fill a dull moment? If that is the case, you can call a friend or do something fun to fill the void.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out this great article by the American Psychological Association. Stay tuned for more articles about how to maintain your determination and willpower!