”The willpower response is a reaction to an internal conflict. You want to do one thing, such as smoke a cigarette or supersize your lunch, but know you shouldn’t. Or you know you should do something, like file your taxes or go to the gym, but you’d rather do nothing.”
Okay, we know that we only have so much willpower and as we go about our day, stress and normal self-control deplete our resource. Let’s see what options we have for increasing the pool of willpower we have to draw from.
Increase your capacity for pressure: Learn how to manage stress
To start with, we need to manage our stress levels. 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. Our prefrontal cortex loses out in the battle for our energy when high-stress is involved.
It is said that 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.
Encourage yourself to stick to your plan:-
To make it even easier, it appears that 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:
So try telling yourself that you don’t do that bad habit, rather than punishing yourself by saying “I can’t.”
Get more sleep to help your brain manage energy better:-
Getting enough sleep makes a big difference in how efficiently our prefrontal cortex works:
Luckily, It also cites studies that have shown we can make this work in our favor by ensuring we get enough sleep:
And if you’re wondering how much sleep is enough, here’s a rough guide: one of the most acclaimed sleep researchers, Daniel Kripke, 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”.
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. this can even give fast results.
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, though points out that we’re not sure why this works yet.
As I mentioned earlier, what you feed your body affects how much energy the prefrontal cortex has to work with. This is why nutrition is so important:
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.
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 (his example is eating chocolate cake).