This time of year can seriously test (and drain) our willpower. The big meals, end of year social events, and food-themed family gatherings can all combine into a perfect storm of temptation.
The good news is there are some really simple ways to turn this around. While willpower may seem like an elusive concept, it’s actually something that we can learn to manage and control… Just listen to how it’s defined by the Cambridge Dictionary…
WILLPOWER(n): the ability to control your own thoughts and the way in which you behave.
The ideal of ‘controlling’ your thoughts and behaviors may sound a little too good to be true. Or completely unobtainable when you’re faced with a house full of delicious treats! But it’s actually not as crazy as you may think. In fact there are lots of practical strategies you can use to regain control over your willpower, which then in turn influence your eating and exercise habits.
Here are three simple ways to turbo-boost your willpower if it’s feeling a little low…
Stop Criticizing Yourself
Feeling bad about yourself makes it much harder to resist temptations. Guilt and shame can lead to overindulgence, which then creates further negative feelings and a downward spiral. But you have the power to stop this process in its tracks simply by stopping the self-criticism. Instead of punishing yourself mentally about your ‘weak will’ or ‘lack of discipline’, try a more positive approach. Accept any overindulgence as a momentary lapse that you will improve upon. Focus on how your will make more positive choices in future, instead of beating yourself up for what’s already been done.
High levels of stress can reduce your willpower. However when you’re in a calm state, you’re much more able to exercise control. When you’re chilled out, your ‘rest and digest’ system is more active (also known as the parasympathetic nervous system). When this happens, it’s much easier to practice self control and resist impulsive actions. So be proactive about doing activities that reduce your stress levels, such as having a bubble bath, listening to music, or reading a novel.
Get More Sleep
We could all do with more sleep… According to recent research, more than a third of Americans are sleep-deprived. Many of us accept that this is a normal part of life – we’re all busy with work and family commitments so sleep is often the thing that’s easiest to sacrifice. But it’s incredibly bad for our health and willpower. In fact getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night is associated with an increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease, mental distress, and early death.
A lack of sleep contributes to stress, which we’ve already seen contributes to a decrease in willpower. But it also directly affects how clearly we think, and therefore the clarity of our decisions. Not to mention the temptation to prop ourselves up with a soda or sugar-filled treat when we feel tired. So carve out a little time for sleep, whether it’s an hour less TV at night or quick nap in the daytime. Your willpower and your overall health will thank you for it!
⇒ Do you struggle with willpower? Try out these tips and then let me know how you get on in the comments below!