PRATIE PLACE

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Will power gets stronger with use.

This fascinated me. Zed: note need for FOOD and SLEEP!

Extracts from
Tighten Your Belt, Strengthen Your Mind
By Sandra Aamodt And Sam Wang for the New York Times, April 2, 2008

The brain has a limited capacity for self-regulation, so exerting willpower in one area often leads to backsliding in others.

The good news, however, is that practice increases willpower capacity.

The brain’s store of willpower is depleted when people control their thoughts, feelings or impulses, or when they modify their behavior in pursuit of goals.

In one pioneering study, some people were asked to eat radishes while others received freshly baked chocolate chip cookies before trying to solve an impossible puzzle. The radish-eaters abandoned the puzzle in eight minutes on average, working less than half as long as people who got cookies or those who were excused from eating radishes.

Other activities that deplete willpower include resisting food or drink, suppressing emotional responses, restraining aggressive or sexual impulses, taking exams and trying to impress someone.

Task persistence is also reduced when people are stressed or tired from exertion or lack of sleep.

What limits willpower? Some have suggested that it is blood sugar... Exerting self-control lowers blood sugar, which reduces the capacity for further self-control. People who drink a glass of lemonade between completing one task requiring self-control and beginning a second one perform equally well on both tasks.

In the short term, you should spend your limited willpower budget wisely. For example, if you do not want to drink too much at a party, then on the way to the festivities, you should not deplete your willpower by window shopping for items you cannot afford.

Similarly, it can be counterproductive to work toward multiple goals at the same time if your willpower cannot cover all the efforts that are required.

Like a muscle, willpower seems to become stronger with use. The idea of exercising willpower is seen in military boot camp, where recruits are trained to overcome one challenge after another.

In psychological studies, even something as simple as using your nondominant hand to brush your teeth for two weeks can increase willpower capacity. People who stick to an exercise program for two months report reducing their impulsive spending, junk food intake, alcohol use and smoking. They also study more, watch less television and do more housework.

Whatever the explanation, consistently doing any activity that requires self-control seems to increase willpower.


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1 Comments:

At 6:44 PM, Anonymous Marilyn said...

Excellent insights about willpower. I will try brushing my teeth AND my hair with my non-dominant hand and see if I can skip the regular exercise.

Cheers!

 

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