We often feel that in order to change a habit we need to muster up bucket loads of willpower to turbo boost ourselves forward.
Unfortunately willpower is unreliable, easily exhausted and not around when you need it the most. To sustain real change we can't depend on it, but there are some things we can do to strengthen it.
In Kelly McGonigal's book Willpower Instinct, she talks about the fact that we have one brain but two minds. One part (the reptilian brain or amygdala) is only interested in instant gratification, being comfortable and maintaining the status quo. The other part (the pre-frontal cortex) wants more for us, is interested in our long term goals and governs future-oriented thinking. The problem is that these 2 parts of our minds are often at odds with each other.
For example you see a tempting dessert calling your name but remember you're trying to cut down on your sugar intake. When our willpower is low (which is often the case), the part of ourselves that just wants to feel good wins and sabotages our goals. Sound familiar?
So the name of the game is strengthening the part of the brain which is on our side so that we make choices more often that are in line with our goals and intentions.
McGonigal outlines four habits that literally strengthen, grow and improve connections in our pre-frontal cortex. These habits not only have zillion of benefits themselves, but they also help us have better self-control in every part of our lives!
The four habits are:
Sleep. If we're tired and run down we not only don't make bad choices, but we put our brains at a disadvantage. "Less than 6 hours of sleep at night per day is associated with low-grade chronic inflammation and worsening insulin resistance, as well as increased risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Inadequate rest impairs our ability to think, to handle stress, to maintain a healthy immune system and to moderate our emotions. It’s associated with heart disease, hypertension, weight gain, diabetes, and a wide range of psychiatric disorders including depression and anxiety. “ Chris Kessler. Tips for a good night sleep here.
Exercise. When we work out we not only build our muscles but we also improve brain functioning which leads to better self-control. Exercise sparks neurogenesis - the creation of entirely new brain cells as well as strengthens existing cells. Just another one of many reasons to get moving!
Meditation. More and more are researchers studying and discovering the vast array of benefits of meditating. While we might think we're too busy to meditate and not have time to just sit there and do nothing, studies show that it is well worth our time if we took a few minutes a day to just BE.
Plant-based diet. Eating a nutrient-dense diet plenty of greens, fruits and vegetables supplies your brain with fuel and energy to help boost your willpower. If you're used to snacking throughout the day, you're setting yourself up for blood sugar crashes that often results in a choice that you might regret later.
These four fundamental health habits are part of the ten foundational habits I teach in my habit-changing course Align and Thrive. I'm opening up early registration for my next session which starts April 11th. Spots are filling up and I only accept 12 participants. If you're ready to stop sabotaging your health goals and implement the daily habits that allow you to feel great, have more energy, better sleep and a healthier diet – set up a free 30 minute strategy session with me here and start making better decisions in every area of your life : )