How to train willpower

How to train willpower: 8 working methods

Willpower can be trained. Here are 8 tips from a neuroscientist to improve self-control.

What is willpower?

It’s not a skill, an innate habit, or a unique talent. According to research by neuroendocrinologists, willpower and its associated self-control is a natural function of the body. It was developed in the process of evolution as an element of survival.

The first people did not live alone, they were united into tribes. They hunted collectively, gathered berries and protected themselves. In such conditions they had to learn to coexist, which means – to get used to limitations. For example, not to take more food than allowed, otherwise the tribe would not be able to feed everyone.

Getting used to such conditions, the human brain eventually learned to control instincts and desires.

And that would be all right, but the world has changed a lot over the past centuries. New temptations have appeared. Alcohol, shopping, computer games, the Internet, TV, sweets. Coping with all of this has proven difficult. But even in these conditions to bring up the willpower is real.

Make an environment of strong-willed people.

The ability to self-control is determined by genetics and upbringing: if we see near the example of a strong-willed man, this is a good influence on their own willpower. In a group it is easier to achieve something – for example, it is easier to lose weight together, to go to training regularly and to learn languages.

How to train willpower: 8 working methods

Start small.

Like any habit, self-control can be trained. The more we set ourselves small tasks for each day and the more thoroughly we execute them, the stronger our self-control will be. “By deciding to do ten squats every day in the morning and staying on track, it will be easier to do more difficult tasks later on.”

Psychologist Roy Baumeister, who studies self-control and decision-making, suggests another coaching strategy in his book “Willpower”: changing speech habits. These are particularly deep-rooted; it takes a conscious effort to influence them. You can try speaking only in complete sentences and avoiding parasitic words or swear words. Such exercises will help to pump up willpower on a global level.

Keep an eye on the willpower resource you spend in a day.

It can be depleted. Self-control requires a lot of brain work, which is a very energy-consuming process. You know that feeling when it feels like your brain is boiling?. Of course, it doesn’t really happen. But at the peak of activity, solving some particularly difficult task, brain work can consume about 70 percent of the body’s energy.

Willpower resources are expended by conscious effort – for example, when we force ourselves to pause a soap opera and get to work. It’s helpful to keep this in mind when planning tasks for the day and prioritizing tasks that will require a resource of self-control.

Get enough sleep.

Sleep is most effective in restoring self-control resource. Memory consolidation occurs during sleep, and willpower efforts are also a kind of memory. Accordingly, self-control is strengthened during sleep. Having slept through the night, doing ten squats in the morning will be easier than yesterday. The brain has ‘digested’ the experience, and doing the same thing a second time is easier.

During sleep, the brain is cleared of metabolic products, of which the more energy the brain has spent. This means that the more intensely you think during the day, the more efficiently you should rest. If you don’t get enough sleep, the intoxication slows the brain down. There’s no question of willpower.

Dose some stress.

Short-term stress mobilizes the body. It makes you actively think and accumulate cognitive forces – including willpower.

But chronic stress, by constantly raising levels of cortisol and adrenaline, kills neurons. The hippocampus suffers first, then the cortex. It’s devastating to your ability to think. And willpower is the ability to think, make decisions and stick to them.

Maintain the function of the prefrontal cortex.

Exercises that help with this will also be helpful in developing willpower. Meditation – this practice lowers cortisol levels – and any exercise that requires mental effort will do. The main thing is that they should be constant. If you responsibly learn five foreign words every day for a month, it will repeatedly strengthen your willpower.

How to train willpower

Keep a good mood.

In a study of willpower, Roy Baumeister and his colleagues looked at how disposition affects the resource of self-control. When they showed participants in the experiments funny videos and gave them unexpected gifts, their mood improved. This helped them partially overcome some of the symptoms of a depleted willpower resource.

Consider motivation.

Research by psychologists demonstrates: motivation affects the level of self-control resource. Their subjects, who believed that their efforts would help others or benefit themselves, performed better in willpower tests. Researchers concluded that by depleting self-control, people can compensate for the lack of a resource by having enough motivation.

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