What is willpower?
Neuroscientist believe that prefrontal area will impact our willpower to strength the self control, but the middle area of our brain will stimulate our impulsive self. We can say even we have one brain, but two minds here.
As we can observe ourselves in our daily life, one version of us that acts on impulse, such as want to eat cookies, or watch non stop TV shows, and another version of us that controls our impulse and delays gratification to protect our long term goal, such as put ourselves in that jeans or become a successful business person
They both are actually us, but we switch back and forth between these two selves. This is what defines a willpower challenge: part of you wants one thing, and another part of you wants something else.
So as you can see that, when we try to improve the willpower, we are not trying to always restrain one version and only focus another version. What we want here is to find solutions to exercise the balance between the impulsive self and the self-control.
In the psychology experiments, there are multiple ways to improve the willpower or balance the impulsive self and controlled self. But today, I would like to share three little changes that could impact significantly on your willpower:
Sleep, meditation, and exercise
1. Sleep, you might surprise that how sleep impact your willpower. Actually the studies show that people are surviving on less than six hours of sleep a night, normally have a high chance that don't even remember what it is like to have your full willpower. Basically, poor sleep or short sleep will impair how the body and brain use glucose, we also called it grape sugar, that is the main form of the energy of our brain. This will cause your prefrontal cortex area ( the energy hungry area) bears the energy crisis. So that body will get stuck in a physiological fight or flight stake, with the accompanying high levels of stress of hormones and decreased heart rate. Just like I am now, since I was too worried about my speech last night, I couldn't sleep well, so that I am feeling drifting now. This result lead us bear more stress, and carry less self control. But good thing is, all of this is reversible. When a sleepless person catch a better sleep, then the prefrontal cortex impairment will be repaired
2. 5-10 minutes daily meditation: Many studies indicate that even just 5 minutes meditation a day, will help you boost your willpower easily. How that happen? Yale university discovered that experienced meditator had deceased the activities in the areas of the brain called the default mode network, which has been implicated in lapses of attention and disorders such as anxiety, attention deficit, and physical or mental disorder. We can also call this default mode network as our bad habits area. Through the medical scan, they found when the default mode network was active, experienced meditators will co-activated their own self monitoring and cognitive control. But for person without meditation, they don't have that self- defense system immediately set up. This indicate that meditators are constantly monitoring and suppressing the emergence of me thoughts or mind wandering. Scientist also find that The meditators did self monitoring and cognitive control during the meditation and also when just resting, even not being told to do so. This indicate that meditators have developed a new default mode in which more present centered , less self centrex
3. 30 minutes weekly exercise. If you feel struggled to start meditation, Scientists found that physical exercise also leads to similar changes in the brain, especially the prefrontal cortex. Regular exercise, both intense cardio workout or mindful exercise like Yoga, also makes the body and brain more resilient to stress, which is a great boost to willpower. Even you just start running 30 mins a week, your body will release lots of Dopamine, to make your feel happy, which let us associated to the exercise. This is very similar to the drug effect. So just try 30 mins workout a week for the next several weeks, you will find that you want to start to increase your workout time, even without people asking to do so.