According to the survey Stress in America™, carried out by the American Psychological Association, Americans usually cite lack of willpower as their No. 1 reason for not achieving their health-related lifestyle goals. And how are we supposed to survive temptations when we’re bombarded with ads for high-calorie treats, and fast, processed food is available 24/7, often at a lower cost than healthier options?
Willpower, the road toward long-term goals
Willpower can be defined as the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals. With more self-control, we could have better eating habits, avoid overusing alcohol and drugs, save more money, and reach all kinds of goals. As a matter of fact, scholars such as Eli Tsukayama have found that people with a better self-control are less likely to become overweight, thanks to their ability to control impulses and delay gratification.
Researchers have also found that willpower can be depleted, having an impact over a range of behaviors, including substance use and misuse, impulsive purchasing, and excessive food intake. The good news, they don’t believe willpower is ever completely exhausted. On the contrary, we all appear to keep some in reserve, and we’re even capable of strengthen it with practice.
6 strategies to reboot your willpower
According to Roy Baumeister, our beliefs and attitudes may mitigate the effects of willpower depletion. When high motivation is not enough to overcome weakened willpower, you may find the following strategies pretty useful:
- When our glucose levels are low, we’re more susceptible to overeating. Eating regularly to maintain blood-sugar levels in the brain may help refuel run-down willpower stores. Just remember that if you’re trying to keep off extra pounds, you should eat frequent small meals and snacks rather than spending long periods of time without any food.
- When you set goals, be sure to meet your own personal objectives, and don’t try to fulfill others’ expectations. When it comes to willpower, being in touch with ourselves yield better results than pleasing others. Willpower is YOUR choice. If you decide to make some changes in your day-by-day habits, you should be truly convinced to do so: the only person you have to please is yourself. If you go on a diet just because your friends, family, or couple want you to lose weight, you’ll have to make a greater effort than if you were doing it because you want a better version of yourself.
- Flexing your willpower muscles can strengthen self-control over time. Regular physical exercise leads not only to stronger muscles, but will exert your willpower as well. Exercising for the first time requires a lot of willpower, but once you’ve begun, it becomes a routine. The same happens with every change you’d pursue in your life; exercising is a routine that also strengthens your willpower.
- Don’t set too many goals at the same time. Once a good habit is in place, you won’t need your willpower to maintain the behavior. Healthy habits will become a routine and you won’t need self-control either; it is then that you can put the next goal in your calendar.
- You can try the “out of sight, out of mind” principle. If you’re trying to get rid of extra pounds, you can try keeping junk, fattening food out of sight, it’ll be easier not to fall into temptation.
- Use “if-then” statements to plan those situations you know might make you fall. For instance, if you’re watching your alcohol intake and you’re attending a party, you can think, “If I’m offered a drink, then I’ll ask for a soda instead”. Having a plan in place ahead of time may allow you to make decisions in the moment without having to draw on your willpower.
Having willpower will bring you positive life outcomes, such as higher self-esteem, lower intakes of damaging substances, and improved eating habits, which will lead you to a better physical and mental health. It might not be easy at first, but if you #DecideItNow, you’ll soon realize it was worth the effort.