It's really hard for many folks to stick with an exercise or diet program. It really takes strong willpower to stay committed to one's physical goals. As we head into May and closer towards summertime, here's a great piece on how to keep your willpower strong and steady as you start a new exercise program. – Make it a great day, Chad
By Christine Carter, PhD / Huffington Post
Who among us has not made a plan to get up in the morning and exercise, but then hit snooze one time too many, sleeping through our morning jog?
We may have been super-inspired by the incredible brain-boosting properties of exercise. We may have had every intention to start an exercise plan and stick to it. But then… We didn't. Our warm bed sucked us in. We'll exercise tomorrow.
What we need is willpower. Once we get in the habit of exercising — or of staying calm in the face of a toddler meltdown, of not checking our email after 5 p.m., or of doing anything else we want to have the resolve to do — we don't need to try so hard. But for now, because we are in the habit of pushing snooze — or yelling, or checking email compulsively all evening — we need self-discipline.
Here are five tips for strengthening your willpower.
1.Get enough sleep. That's seven to eight hours for adults, at least nine for teens, or 10 to 12 for elementary and middle school kids.
Sleep deprivation makes us susceptible to temptations like Facebook and that chocolate-covered cookie over there, for physiological reasons. Self-control takes a ton of brainpower, and when we are tired, our bodies don't tend to deliver enough glucose to our brain for it to get the willpower engine going.
2. Meditate for five minutes a day. Sit up straight and focus your attention on your breath. When your mind wanders, as it will, you'll be building willpower when you simply notice that your mind has wandered and you bring your attention back to your breath.
As Kelly McGonigal notes in her awesome book The Willpower Instinct, the worse you are at meditation, the better it is as an exercise for building self-control. Here's why: In order to check your impulsive tendency to snag that donut off the counter, you need to build self-awareness.
When you are aware of what you are doing (e.g., "I'm feeling tempted to scarf that down."), you're actually engaging the part of your brain you need for willpower, rather than letting your impulses take over. Meditation gives you practice at engaging your self-awareness; as a bonus, deep, slow breathing also helps strengthen your self-control.
3.Lay off the cocktails. Science of the blazingly obvious, I know, but face it: We often have a glass of wine right before we need willpower to make healthy choices at dinner. Alcohol lowers your blood glucose, which a series of studies shows can dramatically weaken your willpower. (You'd be better off drinking sugary soda before testing your will, although I'm not actually recommending that.)
Alcohol also reduces self-awareness, and it is self-awareness that we need most to bring us back to our goals. (See numbers 2 and 5.) Read the rest of this entry »