We all know what willpower is: It’s that little voice in our heads telling us to pass up the cookie, to avoid the impulse purchase, to get out of bed and drag our butts to the gym. Generally speaking, willpower is the ability – powered in the brain – to resist short-term, immediate gratification. Although willpower usually works in our favor, helping us to pursue long-term positives over long-term negatives, some of us still struggle to utilize our willpower effectively.
Luckily, there are ways we can boost our willpower. There are some things we can do to more effectively and consistently turn down feeling good now in order to feel good later for longer. Put some of these methods to the test in order to reap optimal willpower:
1. Display Your Inspiration
It may sound a little strange, but looking at photos that inspire you is an effective way to power through a tough time. Willpower is based in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which becomes empowered when we see something inspiring. In other words, looking at inspiration boosts willpower.
Whether it’s a specific role model or a more general image, post the picture somewhere you’ll see it often: the bathroom mirror, your phone background, on your nightstand, etc. That beautiful Caribbean beach staring back at your every morning – that could be just what you need in order to will yourself to save up for that vacation, for example.
2. Treat Yourself
Willpower is generally required when an undesirable task needs to be conquered. In order to overcome the hump and finish the grunt work, reward yourself with something positive upon the project’s completion. Purchase a full-body massage for after your half-marathon, for instance. When you know something bright lies just over the mountain, it will make the climb a bit easier.
3. Find Positive Company
Negativity is contagious. To surround yourself with Debbie Downers, therefore, is the perfect way to bring down your spirits, expect less from life and crush your willpower. Instead, you should bring positive, uplifting individuals into your sphere in order to boost morale, confidence and general outlook. These, in turn, will improve your ability to take on the tasks at hand – whether they’re easy and fun or tricky and requiring willpower.
4. Sleep Well
Without a good night’s sleep, your mind cannot function properly. In fact, studies have shown that a groggy mind works just as poorly as a drunken one. In order to practice willpower, you need to think clearly, recognizing the logic and reasoning in doing something you may not want to do. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should be getting at least seven hours of sleep each night. However, if seven hours doesn’t leave you feeling alert and healthy, you should aim for eight or nine hours at least.
5. Eat Your Energy
Utilizing self-control reduces the body’s blood glucose levels. Willpower is highly dependent upon glucose, in fact, so to have more available allows for greater perseverance. Unfortunately, overloading on sugar has negative long-term effects, and is therefore not the best option. Instead, you should strive to cut back on foods that raise your insulin levels, such as carbohydrates and sugary foods. A more natural diet, filled with fruits, vegetables and natural proteins, is a great way to go.
Stress reduces willpower. When stressed, we seek comfort, often in old habits – whether they’re good or bad. This desire for comfort also leads us to avoid new or challenging tasks – like the challenge of willing oneself away from ice cream. In order to win your willpower back, find ways to combat your old, bad habits. Find better, healthier ways to reduce your stress: exercise, listen to calming music, be among nature, etc.
7. Celebrate Little Accomplishments
Take note of even the smallest achievements throughout the day. Together, they will build into a greater feeling of success. Having an aura of accomplishment will instill a sense of invincibility, putting you in a better state to overcome your obstacles. Plus, when you reflect upon your accomplishments – all those little things that required your willpower – it helps you to visualize the positives that come from short-term discomfort.
8. Cheer Yourself On
Believing in yourself and having confidence in your actions is obviously crucial in tackling projects with your willpower. It turns out, however, that you should be cheering yourself on in a specific way; studies show that self-affirmations given in the second person are more effective than those in first person. Saying “you can do it,” rather than “I can do it,” strengthens both our intentions and our performance. So keep on reminding yourself: “You got this.”
There you have it. Practice individual items from this list or – even better – combine them in order to successfully conquer even the toughest items on your next to-do list.
Sarah Landrum is a marketing professional and freelance writer who shares advice primarily on leading a happy and healthy life. She is the founder of Punched Clocks, a career development site that helps professionals find happiness and success in their careers. punchedclocks.com