I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t benefit from a little more will and power to get them through the day. Willpower is a key component for anyone who is trying to make an improvement or habit change in their life.
A couple of years ago I was given the book ‘The Willpower Instinct’ by Kelly McGonigal and it has become one, if not the only, resource to building and strengthening my willpower. I’d highly recommend finding the time to read the book for yourself, but to give you a taste of it here are some of her tips on how to boost your willpower:
1. Breathe your way to self-control: Slow your breathing down to four to six breaths per minute. That’s 10 to 15 seconds per breath-slower than you normally breathe, but not difficult with a little bit of practice and patience. Slowing the breath down activates the prefrontal cortex and increases hear rate variability, which helps shift the brain and body from a state of stress to self-control mode.
2. Five-minute green fill-up: Get yourself outside! Five minutes of what scientists call “green exercise” decreases stress, improves mood, enhances focus, and boosts self-control. Some ideas are:
- Get out of the office and head for the closes greenery.
– Cue up a favorite song on your iPod and walk or jog around the block.
– Take your dog outside to play.
– Do a bit of work in your yard or your garden.
– Step outside for some fresh air and do a few simple stretches.
– Challenge your kids to a race or game in the backyard.
3. The willpower diet: During stressful times, it’s especially tempting to turn to highly processed, high-fat, and high-sugar “comfort” food. This can lead to a self-control crash and burn because you could end up with high blood sugar, but low energy. Better food choices would be lean proteins, nuts and beans, high-fiber grains, and most fruits and vegetables.
4. Remember the why: This works because it changes how you feel about the reward of self-indulgence. That so-called treat will start to look more like the threat to your goals that it is, and giving in won’t look so good. Remembering the why will also help you recognize and act on other opportunities to accomplish your goal.
5. A tomorrow just like today: Aim to reduce the variability of your behavior day to day. View every choice you make as a commitment to all future choices. So instead of asking, “Do I want to eat this candy bar now?” ask yourself, “Do I want the consequences of eating a candy bar every afternoon for the next year?” Or if you’ve been putting something off that you know you should do, instead of asking, “Would I rather do this today or tomorrow?” ask yourself, “Do I really want the consequences of always putting this off?”
This short list is just barely scraping the surface of what one could learn by reading this book. As you think about the amount of willpower you have you may come up with your own tips. Point is the mental muscle that makes willpower possible needs a little exercise too so before you give in consider what you’re giving up.