Keeping up a good habit is down to willpower. The willpower response is a reaction to an internal conflict. You want to do one thing, such as smoke a cigarette or supersize your lunch, but know you shouldn’t. Or you know you should do something, like file your taxes or go to the gym, but you’d rather do nothing.
We can look at willpower like a muscle. It can get exhausted by overuse, but just like our physical muscles, there are some researchers who believe we might be able to strengthen our willpower by training it.
One way to train your willpower is down to physical exercise. Both relaxing, mindful exercise like yoga and intense physical training can provide these benefits. Not only will exercise improve your willpower, but it will make you feel better as well. Exercise in particular is known for making us happy by releasing endorphins. These endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria.
The willpower benefits of exercise are immediate. Fifteen minutes on a treadmill reduces cravings, as seen when researchers try to tempt dieters with chocolate and smokers with cigarettes. The long-term effects of exercise are even more impressive. It not only relieves ordinary, everyday stress, but acts as a powerful antidepressant.
Debating whether or not to work out takes a lot of mental energy. However, when it happens routinely, you don't have to think about it and it's not so taxing.
To start a new exercise habit, pick a time when you'll be able to work out consistently, such as first thing in the morning. Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly do it at the same hour all the time.
Build get-moving prompts into your day. If you go for a run just after waking up, put your workout clothes near your bed so you'll see them first thing. Later on, give yourself a little reward every time you finish a workout. Ensure it's something you enjoy, so it will trick your brain into associating the rush of pleasure that comes from a treat, such as coffee, with exercise.
Our friends can also get us excited about exercise. If a friend takes up running and says they have more energy, it may encourage you to start running too.
Schedule workouts and healthy meals with your fittest friends on a regular basis. Making the commitment to get and stay in shape together will help build your willpower and keep you motivated to reach the finish line.
Cooper. B. B, ‘The Science of Self-Control: 6 Ways to Improve Your Willpower Today’, blog.bufferapp.com, 05.12.2013.
Kelly. M, ‘Reach Any Goal: How to Strengthen Your Willpower’, fitnessmagazine.com
McGonigal. K, ‘The Willpower Instinct’ December 29, 2011. Block shelf.com