Neuroscientists have reported that there are four major lifestyle factors affecting the efficacy of our willpower. Below are recommended interventions that will help you maintain a healthy willpower in each of the four factors.
Sleep. Scientists have found that our brain requires 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep per night to restore the brain to its optimal operating efficiency. Scientists were also able to demonstrate a direct relationship between the lack of sufficient restful sleep and a diminished capability of our willpower.
Stress management. Chronic stress increases the presence of the hormone Cortisol in our brain to levels at which the efficient operation of our neural networks is compromised. It is critically important that we find ways to reduce our stress level. Learning to incorporate pre-scheduled “decompression activities” will help to reduce your stress level, thereby supporting a stronger willpower.
Healthy nutrition. Recent advances in neuroscience have shown that nutrition plays a key role in the health of our brain, not just our body. To operate efficiently our brain requires a variety of micro-nutrients, glucose, and Omega 3 fatty acids.
Scientist have also found that our brain works much more efficiently when it gets a steady supply of glucose, rather than the sudden spikes which we get from eating carbohydrate-based foods.
Irrespective of the specific diet you adopt, nutritionists agree that to achieve a healthy nutrition you should:
Reduce all sources of sugar in your diet;
Reduce the intake of refined carbohydrates and other highly process foods (thereby reducing the glycemic index of your food);
Increase your consumption of fiber;
Increase your consumption of vegetables and fruits;
Increase foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids from fish such as salmon, nuts, and plants; and
Integrate legumes into your diet.
Exercise. In his book – “Spike”, Dr. John Ratey writes about the extensive positive impact of exercise on our brain. Of particular interest is that exercise increases the production of a brain protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). Ratey argues that BDNF acts like “miracle-gro” for the brain. It strengthens the synaptic networking of the neurons in our brain and even promotes the growth of new neurons in the Hippocampus, the centre of learning and long term memory.
Exercise has also been shown to positively affect our willpower and to bring about a better balance between the emotional and the rational forces in our brain.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US recommends a minimum of 2 ½ hours per week of moderate-to-intense aerobic exerciseandmuscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. For even greater benefits, the CDC recommends 5 hours a week of moderate-to-intense aerobic exercise plus muscle strengthening activities at least twice a week.
In Summary. Increasing our conscious awareness of our willpower and how it fluctuates throughout the day, will help us develop and optimize its positive effect on our lives. By following the neuroscience-based interventions outlined in this two-part post you will be able to develop your willpower and maintain its on-going fitness.
About the Author
Uri founded The Will To Change Inc.(www.thewilltochange.com )in 2008, with the objective of helping his clients develop and harness their willpower, intellect, and talent to reach personal and professional growth opportunities they could not imagine possible. Uri helps his clients achieve clarity of purpose and develop a sound change strategy. He also supports them throughout their change journey and holds them accountable to pursue their goals. Before launching his career as an executive and corporate coach, Uri was an executive management consultant for over 25 years. In this role Uri climbed the corporate ladder to become a partner with the international consulting firm Accenture in South Africa, a vice president with Oracle Corporation in the USA, and a senior vice president with PwC Consulting in Canada. Uri is a frequent writer and speaker in the areas of Willpower, Personal and Professional Change, Leadership, Business Transformation, and Project Management.
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