I often check out the BBC News website on my lunch break, and an interesting article popped up in the Health section last week – just in time for Easter. It’s called ‘How to Strengthen your Willpower’ and you can read the original article here.
It seems there are a few different ways of looking at willpower, according to brainy Scientists who are much cleverer than myself:
1. Willpower is a finite resource and is depleted throughout the day.
2. Willpower is like a muscle and the more you exercise it, the stronger it is.
3. Certain situations or things can improve your willpower, for example ingesting glucose or being in a good mood.
So far it seems there hasn’t been a solid conclusion drawn from this research, but all of the above theories could certainly be applied to the kind of willpower we probably use most often: the willpower required to say no to sugary, calorific, unhealthy foods.
If willpower is depleted throughout the day, perhaps this explains why the munchies seem to attack most people in the evening?
If you are used to concentrating on making decisions and flexing your willpower like a muscle, then naturally it would make sense that it would become stronger with time. As soon as you begin changing your patterns and your habits, even if it is only sheer willpower driving you in the beginning, your mind would stop having to think so hard when it had a choice between vegetables and chocolate. In this respect, it makes sense to me that our willpower increases with use.
If you are in a good mood – perhaps because you are seeing results with your hard work – then surely this would affect your ability to say no to temptation. Glucose, however, is a simple sugar, and as the article suggests, ingesting it has been shown to improve willpower temporarily. If it is sugar you are trying to avoid, though… well, this method definitely isn’t going to work for you!
Other interesting reads on this topic:
Try This: Willpower Experiment for Making Smarter, Healthier Choices from Psychology Today
The Willpower Trick from Wired Magazine
Willpower: What’s Sugar Got to do with it? from Livestrong.com
How do you think willpower works? When do you find your willpower most challenged? Mine is, as the graphic above indicates, sugary foods. I have an almighty sweet tooth!