How do we get ourselves to consciously make good choices at every chance we get? Almost always, we would presume the answer to be some sort of a magical serum known to mankind as willpower. Willpower is the ability to control ourselves. It is having the drive to resist temptations or to do something one needs to do, even when you don't like it.
Willpower is indeed a powerful trait; with more of it, we are likely to get anything done and achieve our goals, but without sufficient willpower in our lives, we naturally lose control, let ourselves go, and give up on many things. It goes without saying that our lives would imaginably be far worse without willpower to help us.
But like many things of great value, willpower has its limits. After all, it comes in finite levels and is capable of being depleted at some point during the day. Studies have proven over again the same findings about willpower, in many cases stressing that more use of it throughout the day gradually lessens our resistance and strength in our resolve. This is evident in the tendency to indulge in late-night snacking, and in numerous moments we find ourselves too physically exhausted to do more productive activities at the end of the day.
Think of willpower as the ocean that rises and falls. We need to understand how willpower naturally works to manage it better for our own good.
Here are the reasons why people normally lose their willpower and the ways to get it back.
According to many studies showcasing the connection between willpower and stress, decision-making abilities are compromised when we are under stress. Willpower is a complex mind-body response that weakens in the height of stress, with our natural fight-or-flight instinct stealing the energy from our brain that is supposedly allotted for wise decision making.
When we're under stress, our body acts on impulse as a natural mechanism to cope with danger and uncertainty. That's why it's rather challenging to exhibit willpower under duress.
How To Better Handle It
The best way to garner willpower is by managing your stress level better. Taking a few moments for a relaxing deep breath to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed will go a long way. Normally, stress and self-control don't thrive in the same plane. Stress will force you to focus on immediate outcomes, while self-control necessitates that you consider the big picture. You can't completely avoid stress but you can find ways to handle it properly, instead of allowing it to rule your life with poor choices and bad decisions you'll only regret later on.
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Being Too Hard On Your Self
Contrary to what many believe, self-compassion enables you to better exhibit willpower and self-control. The harder you try resisting something, the more likely you indulge in it and worse, often in even greater scale. Several studies have proven that self-criticism is actually correlated with less motivation and less self-control, instead of the other way around.
It's best to remain kind to ourselves because guilt-tripping and shaming ourselves into resisting something can often backfire. Be realistic and understand the underlying reason why you are tempted to do something, then pause and make a choice. Sometimes resisting too many temptations drains our willpower. You need to hit a balance and be level-headed about your choices.
How To Better Handle It
There are times when allowing yourself to give in is a healthier option. To show your resolve (to yourself), come up with a corresponding productive plan, which acts as a consequence for your action. Commit to doing something in exchange for choosing to act on a whim.
For example, use the IF-THEN technique, where you commit to doing a productive activity in exchange for giving in to your impulses. The result is either lessened interest in continuing down the impulsive path or a better understanding of the consequence, which gives you more willpower.
Lack Of Self-Care
Basically, willpower depends a lot on our level of self-care. This part of the brain is activated and strengthened when the body is more relaxed and stress-free. Willpower weakens when we are stressed, lack sleep, lack exercise, and do not feed ourselves well. No wonder our willpower is naturally stronger in the morning, when we're primed for a long day, and have just gotten enough rest and sleep.
How To Better Handle It
For stronger willpower, never underestimate the importance of sufficient rest and sleep, as well as good nutrition and exercise. These things are basic, but something we don't put great value on them, compared to our frenzied lifestyle. Good nutrition is important for a well-functioning brain and for the brain's overall energy. Get sufficient rest and sleep, eat right, manage your stress levels and avoid allowing stress to overwhelm you. Stress can be regulated and managed with meditation and exercise.