Willpower. Definitely an important concept when it comes to health and fitness.
It kind of sounds like a super power…and let’s be honest it basically is. So much of what we struggle with when it comes to trying to stick to a healthy lifestyle comes down to willpower, and often just not having enough of it!
Willpower to resist the donuts your coworker left in the break room. (always so easy just to snag one…!)
Willpower to go to the gym even though you REALLY are not in the mood.
Willpower to choose water over soda at lunch.
Where does it come from? Can we get more of it? Why do we sometimes not have any at all?
First off let’s define willpower. The American Psychological Association defines willpower as “The ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long term goals”. Sounds simple enough right? Well we all know that is not the case.
Research tells us that willpower is not something we are born with, but rather a muscle that we strengthen and improve over time. Basically more “nurture versus nature” when it comes to willpower. Just like you can improve your physical strength in the gym, you can improve your mental strength/willpower with practice.
In the same way that building strength in the gym starts with small increases in weight over time to see success, building willpower can work the same way starting with small steps. Maybe it is just challenging yourself to choose water over soda at lunch. Start working on that one choice, and have that win every day – then add another one!
We can strengthen and improve our willpower, BUT we do not have an endless supply of it and our environment matters!
For instance, if you were starving on a deserted island…how much willpower do you think you would have to resist a big mac? Probably 0. And for good reason – your motivation to survive would win out over everything else! If we are under intense amounts of stress, do not have our basic needs met, and are not taking care of ourselves emotionally – our willpower can run out faster or disappear completely.
Our minds need time to recharge just like our bodies do. If you are constantly under stress, having the willpower to resist a sugary snack can feel IMPOSSIBLE! On the other hand if you are well rested, calm, feeling positive and in control of your life – you are more likely to be able to make the decision you want that is in line with your goals. Recharge your willpower by doing things like meditating, going for a walk or listening to your favorite music.
Make sure your mind is in a good mental state to set yourself up for the MAXIMUM amount of available willpower each day.
Feelings affect our willpower. It can be hard to make healthy choices about food or exercise if we have a competing motivation to cover up and “fix” unwanted emotions with food or vegging out with Netflix. If you are experiencing intense difficult emotions such as stress, depression, anxiety, boredom, or insecurities – and do not have any healthy ways to process or manage them – having willpower to resist feeling better in the moment by eating a donut will be even harder.
Process and manage your emotional struggles FIRST through support from friends, mindfulness, counseling, meditation, exercise, journaling, yoga or group therapy so that you don’t affect your willpower by depleting the energy in your system right off the bat with emotional struggles. I am so passionate about emotional health and you never want to discount this piece of health or be afraid to get more support when you need it.
I hope this was helpful! Leave your comments below and let me know what has helped YOU will willpower and what areas you still struggle with to have willpower?