Overcoming usually requires willpower, a word that the dictionary defines as "endeavor" energetic "but that in modern times has acquired the meaning of" skill that allows you not to eat all the donuts that you have at your disposal ".
As much as willpower is very important to achieve healthy habits, Americans know little about it. Its acquisition is not something that is taught in public schools or debated in many homes and, outside of the sports field, it is a topic that is rarely discussed in popular culture. Like annuities or kale, will power is something we should know more about than we really know.
So, what's wrong? We promise things in New Year that we do not fulfill. We exercise to have a perfect body but we end up wearing a giant shirt in the pool. We tried to get to lunch without drinking soda and we did not make it. Beer? Five, please.
Then we blame ourselves for failing, but in reality we are not failures. We are beginners in terms of willpower, in a world of professionally designed to be full of temptations. It is us, who have no training, against a 15 trillion dollar economy that is perfected to sell us things and capture our attention every day. Do we want to eat well? Do we want to go to the gym regularly? Do we want to sleep enough? Do we want to finish the project that is our passion?
Do we want to ignore that donut?
You need more willpower. The good news? You can achieve it. Willpower is something that you can study, understand and strengthen.
You can, for lack of a better word, trick you into better behavior.
In the book "Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength" (Willpower: rediscovering the greatest human strength), Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney developed the idea that Willpower is like a muscle that can be strengthened. The authors argue that the mental equivalent of a high repetition and low weight training is what can improve will power. His method: start with little and then progress. Small victories with respect to will power in a day, week or month can lead to great progress later.
As an example, Baumeister and Tierney quote artist David Blaine. When he trains for his strange public exploits, like spending 64 hours inside a giant ice cube, he does it by practicing with small acts of willpower, such as not drinking alcohol. "Keeping your brain trained for small achievements and fulfilling them helps achieve the biggest goals that you should not be able to achieve, "Blaine said."It's not just a matter of preparing for something specific."
If your goal is to eat a diet and lose weight, you can build your willpower by doing tasks that seem unrelated to that, like going for a walk every day or Clean your house every night. If you were Blaine, maybe you'll shave off your chilling beard every day. Whatever it is that serves you.
Tricks for will power
You can, for lack of a better word, cheat yourself to achieve better behavior. Nicole Mead of the Catolica-Lisbon School of Business and Economics and her colleagues say that delaying the consumption of a snack that is not healthy until an unspecified time reduces the consumption of the same. Mead believes that reducing desire, rather than strengthening willpower, is an effective strategy to control unwanted feasts.
Delaying things gives the brain a period to calm down, which then helps to say more, not yes, Mead told WebMD. He adds that the postponement should not be specific. In other words, you should not say "I'll eat all of Carvel's Fudgie the Whale Carvel Ice Cream Cake" within 30 minutes "but" I'll eat the cake later. "
But there is another trick you can use if you feel you have problems with willpower: flex your muscles. Iris W. Hung of the National University of Singapore and Aparna A. Labroo of the University of Chicago conducted a study in which participants who had been instructed to tighten their muscles, no matter what they tensed, demonstrated greater ability to endure pain, consume unpleasant medicines, pay attention to annoying but essential information and avoid eating tempting foods. These investigations theorize that the body is above the mind.
Imagination, used by athletes around the world, is another trick for will power. According to the Harvard researchers, people who performed a good deed or imagined doing it were better able to perform physically strenuous tasks. Strange as it may seem, those who imagined themselves doing something bad had more resistance than those who imagined doing something good. In this case, researchers believe that the mind is above the body.
The findings are based on two studies. In the first, participants were given a dollar and told to keep it or donate it to charity. They were then asked to hold a five-pound weight for as long as they could. Those who donated the dollar to charity held it for an average of ten seconds more.
In a second study, participants held a dumbbell while writing fictional stories in which they helped or hurt another person or did something that had no impact on others. Those who wrote about doing something good were significantly stronger than those who did not benefit anyone.The researchers were surprised to see that people who had written texts in which they hurt others were even stronger than those who had imagined themselves helping someone.
"Regardless of whether you are saintly or vile, there seems to be more strength in moral events," researcher Kurt Gray said when the study was published. "Usually people see others doing excellent or vile things and thinking 'I could never do it' or 'I would not have the strength to do it', but in reality this research suggests that physical strength can be an effect, not a cause, of moral acts. " So the next time you're running and you feel tired, imagine you're in a heroic quest to save the princess, or to kill your father, the beloved king.
You can also trick your brain by modifying your environment. Consumer psychologist Brian Wansink discovered that people eat and drink more if they use larger containers. In one of their studies, people lost more weight when they ate on salad plates instead of using dinner plates, stayed away from less healthy meals by putting those that were at eye level, and ate more at the kitchen or in the dining room instead of in front of the television.
Exhaustion of will power
Like your muscles, your willpower can tire. According to a study in which Baumeister participated, the more frequently and recently people resisted desire, the less successful they were in resisting subsequent desires. He believes that people only have a certain amount of willpower available to use during the day.
How can you tell if your willpower has been exhausted? People who have less willpower feel things more intensely, both physically and emotionally. Baumeister and his colleagues found that people with less willpower suffered more stress in response to a disturbing movie and rated the cold water as more painful during an immersion test.
Making decisions is not the only way to destroy your willpower. Another culprit is hunger. Another study by Baumeister concluded that acts of willpower reduce blood glucose levels and low blood glucose levels predict a lack of will power. It is the proverbial vicious cycle.
The good news is that glucose is a sugar, which is the food of the brain, and can be replaced. Ideally, your sugar comes from a healthy source, like fruits. Do not drink regular sodas to avoid eating a cookie.
What you should do is stay away from fatigue for decisions. Associate professor of kinesiology at the University McMaster, Kathleen Martin Ginis, says that having to make many decisions can cause a person to fall into temptation.
In his efficient book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen suggests to busy people that he wants to be more productive, that he believes folders in your email and in your files, in which you can place the decisions you do not need to make until after a while.Allen's tactic recognizes that it takes a lot of energy to focus on the present and stay productive. Folders take away the burden of having to constantly make decisions.
Ginis said that following regular plans to exercise at the same time every day also gives positive net results.
The debate about exhaustion
Not everyone agrees with Baumeister's findings. Many researchers believe that willpower, in fact, can not be exhausted. For example, Stanford psychologists have found that people who believe that willpower can be exhausted are more likely to get tired when performing a difficult task. Those who do not think the same remain focused on the task for longer.
So, which of them are you?
Can you stay focused on something for a long period of time? If so, then you're on Stanford's side.
Do you feel that your energy goes away quickly when you are focused? If so, you're on Baumeister's side.
The Future of Willpower
Only three years have passed since Caltech scientists located the parts of the brain that regulate willpower, and these are the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. " After centuries of debate in the social sciences, we are finally taking important steps to understand self-control by looking at how the brain resists temptation directly, "researcher Colin Camerer said of the discovery. Camerer hopes that his research will lead to the production of better theories about how self-control develops and how it works according to different types of temptations.
Until science makes a pill for willpower, finding tricks is something that will be useful when it comes to draw a donut without falling into the temptation to eat it.