While it may seem like a drag to go to the gym or eat healthy all the time, you can increase your willpower gradually with repetitive action. The body only does what the mind tells it to do, so if you feed your brain with positivity, willpower will come naturally. However, in our world of instant gratification, our minds can quickly become hijacked by advertisements and enticing products around us.
To strengthen our willpower, we must learn to tune out these messages and look inside ourselves for answers instead. While we should give in to our desires, sparingly, indulging in them too often leads to weakened willpower. According to the American Psychological Association, willpower can become depleted from overuse or underuse, just like a muscle.
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Here are five easy ways to increase your willpower:
1 – Meditate
A lack of willpower means a lack of self-control. By giving in to all of our urges and desires, we don’t get to practice delayed gratification. However, meditation helps us resist the ego’s constant desires by helping us focus our attention and quiet our minds. A chaotic mind leads to a stressful, directionless life, but meditation can help you sift through the chatter and access your potential.
Studies show that regular long-term meditators have improved function in areas of the brain related to self-regulation and executive attention. In other words, they have better control of their emotions and attention spans, both of which play a role in exercising willpower. If you have power over your feelings, you can more easily choose a healthy dinner over a fast food meal, for example. Having a longer attention span means you can use your willpower to do complicated tasks, such as work out or stick to a business plan.
Meditation will seem unpleasant at first as your mind wanders, but just 10 minutes per day can make a huge difference. As you train your brain to focus for more extended periods, you will notice increased focus and more balanced emotions in your daily life.
2 – Get out of your comfort zone by creating goals
The comfort zone may seem cozy and safe, but nothing ever grows there. If you want to break the mold and achieve your goals, you’ll have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Pushing yourself every day in some type of way helps to increase your willpower. Remember – your mind will give out long before your body will. This truth applies to exercise, eating healthy, working on business plans, or anything else you desire.
This outcome doesn’t mean you need to run a marathon or hike up Mount Everest, but you should set small goals for yourself, so you have something to work towards. This goal will help you exercise your willpower by utilizing self-control and delaying gratification.
Researchers found that by creating and meeting self-imposed deadlines, you can increase your willpower. To accomplish this, just pick a project that you’ve been putting off and set a deadline to complete it. In the study, the participants crossed some items off their to-do lists while also eating healthier, exercising more, and cutting back on cigarettes and alcohol.
3 – Keep track of your finances
Many of us have automatic deductions taken out for things we don’t even remember we signed up for, such as credit monitoring programs or music subscriptions. While these may cost only a minimal amount each month, they can add up quickly. Researchers found that monitoring finances helped people improve their willpower.
By either writing down expenses or using budgeting apps to track spending, you can more easily see where your money goes each month. If you know that you spend $500 a month on eating out, you may decide you want to cut back by buying more food from the grocery store, for example. If you’re going to work on your willpower, your finances make a great place to start because many of us don’t control our spending.
For example, after a long day of work, you might feel tempted to drive through McDonald’s or order from a delivery service. However, doing this too often can drain your bank account and deplete willpower. No one feels like cooking after spending eight hours at work, but you will save money and have a healthier meal.
Tracking finances can also help you see how your emotions play a role in your spending. When you feel tired and stressed out, you may use food to cope, as we talked about in the example above. You might also go on shopping sprees when you feel sad or lonely, as many people use material items to deal with unpleasant emotions. By seeing your expenses in front of you, you’ll get an idea of how you can cut back and utilize willpower to achieve financial goals.
4 – Keep something tempting with you
If you want to increase your willpower, carrying around something that tempts you will put you to the ultimate test. For example, if you’re going to eat healthier, you could take a cookie or a couple of pieces of candy around with you at work or school. Researchers did a study where they gave participants a box of Hershey Kisses to carry with them for two days. They told them not to eat the candy and gave some of the participants instructions on coping strategies.
They found that the participants who successfully resisted temptations to eat the candy exercised better control in other areas of their lives as well.
After a few days of resisting, you could choose to eat the candy so that you don’t deplete your willpower completely. This will help you to keep up your good habits while also remembering that everyone deserves a treat sometimes!
5 – Analyze your patterns and emotions
Many of us go through our lives on autopilot without really taking time to examine why we do the things we do. For example, if you get fast food several times a week after work, it starts to become a habit. Humans love routine and can get stuck in bad habits without even realizing it. However, our choices have the power to either hurt or help us in the long run.
If you find yourself feeling generally unhappy and tired the majority of the time, you should analyze your habits. Do you eat healthy, exercise, maintain a regular sleep schedule, work on your goals, and engage in positive self-talk? If not, you can cultivate these habits over time. Many of us engage in self-destructive habits to quell negative emotions such as stress, loneliness, fatigue, boredom, or discontent.
However, the habits and choices we make to deal with our emotions can cause a lot of harm over time. If you want to increase your willpower, work on challenging your feelings instead of giving in to them.
Here are some tips on how to deal with negative emotions:
- Go for a nature walk. Spending time outdoors in the sunshine can boost our mood, help fight mental fatigue, and release feel-good hormones. Try to spend at least 20 minutes outside per day.
- Put down the technology. Speaking of willpower, using too much technology can destroy our self-control. We often reach for our phones or tablets in the morning without even realizing it, and spend hours mindlessly scrolling through social media. Instead, meditate, do yoga, or stretch to begin your day.
- Nothing feels better than pushing yourself through that last quarter mile of your run or doing just one more deadlift in the gym. When you feel down or stressed out, increase your willpower by exercising. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
In our world of endless temptations, having willpower seems almost impossible sometimes. However, just remember that you don’t need all the items and foods that companies want to sell you. You don’t need to open your Facebook 80 times a day to check for updates. Watching that new show on Netflix could probably wait until you have crossed some items off your to-do list.
If you always give in to your desires, you won’t give your willpower muscle a chance to exercise itself. Just like the muscles in your body, it takes work to maintain it. So, to increase your willpower, start small. Deny yourself treats when you want them, track your finances so you can see where you spend unnecessarily, and keep tabs on your emotions and behaviors. Many times, we act irrationally and don’t even realize it.
Also, getting out of your comfort zone by setting realistic goals will help you boost your willpower. You’ll feel empowered when you reach your goals and deny yourself cravings that only hinder your progress. Finally, meditate to increase your mental stamina and focus.