Thanksgiving has passed and now we are gearing up for the December holidays. There is temptation at every corner and the one thing that will get you through is WILLPOWER. Who couldn’t use more willpower? Having the will and power to get through the day and reach your goals is important to anyone in the midst of changing their lives.
Kelly McGonigal wrote a book on this very topic. Called “The Willpower Instinct,” it’s a tremendous resource to building your own willpower. We suggest reading it on your own if you’re able. If not, here are five tips the book gives for better willpower.
5 Tips to Boost Your Willpower
- Just Breathe: Did you know that breathing more slowly can have an impact on your brain? Slowing down your breathing to four to six times a minute activates your prefrontal cortex and increases your heart rate variability. These two things help shift your brain and body from a place of stress to a place of self control. Every time you feel your willpower slipping, take a few minutes to slow your breathing. Practice taking 10 to 15 seconds per breath. You may be surprised by the change it creates.
- Get Outside: Even as little as five minutes spent exercising outside can decrease your stress, enhance your focus, improve your mood and boost your willpower. Take the time to get outside! Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Take a short break from work to walk in a nearby park.
- Go outside and play with your dogs.
- Do 15 minutes of yard work you’ve been putting off.
- Grab your iPod and walk around the block.
- Challenge your kids to a game of tag.
- Just go outside and stretch.
- Eating for Willpower: Comfort food is the enemy of willpower. If you feel overwhelmed, stressed, and lacking in self control, the last thing you want to do is have a snack that is processed, high in fat, or high in sugar. Doing so could leave you with high blood sugar and low energy. Keep going strong by choosing fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean proteins, beans, and high-fiber grains instead.
- Remember Your Why: When your willpower is challenged, remember why you want to make a certain choice in the first place. Doing so challenges how you feel about self-indulgence. That candy bar will start looking less like a treat and more like a threat to your goals. When this happens, giving in becomes much less appealing. And your why doesn’t just help you say no to junk food. Keep your eye on it to help you act on other opportunities that will get you closer to your goals.
- Think About Tomorrow: Willpower comes from shifting the way you think about today. View every choice you make as a commitment to all future choices. With this mindset, you’re not asking yourself “do I want to eat a cheeseburger today?” Instead, you’re asking “Do I want the consequences of eating a cheeseburger for lunch every day for the next year?” The same goes for how you spend your time. Instead of saying “what if I put off exercising until tomorrow?” ask yourself “what would be the consequences if I put off exercising every day?”
Your Next Steps
The mental muscle that makes willpower possible needs exercise, just like any other part of your body. Use the tips listed above to strengthen that muscle whenever you feel your willpower slip. Over time you’ll find it easier and easier to get back on track.
And these aren’t the only ways to improve willpower! Find what works for you, and share your ideas with your challenge team. Together your willpower will keep growing stronger.