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7 Surprising Science-Based Hacks To Build Your Willpower

7 Surprising Science-Based Hacks To Build Your Willpower

Tempted by that second doughnut? Struggling to resist checking your phone? Shopping impulsively on Amazon? Slacking off by reading Lifehack instead of doing work? What you need is more willpower! Recent research shows that strengthening willpower is the real secret to the kind of self-control that can help you resist temptations and achieve your goals. The great news is that scientists say strengthening your willpower is not as hard as you might think. Here are 7 research-based hacks to strengthen your willpower!

1. Smile :-)

Smile

    Smiling and other mood-lifting activities help improve willpower. In a recent study, scientists first drained the willpower of participants through having them resist temptation. Then, for one group, they took steps to lift people’s moods, such as giving them unexpected gifts or showing them a funny video. For another group, they just let them rest. Compared to people who just rested for a brief period, those whose moods were improved did significantly better in resisting temptation later! So next time you need to resist temptation, improve your mood! Smile or laugh, watch a funny video or two.

    2. Clench Your Fist

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    Fist

      Clench your fists or partake in another type of activity where you exercise self-control. Studies say that exercising self-control in any physical domain causes you to become more disciplined in other facets of life. So do whatever works for you to exercise self-control when you are trying to fight temptations: clench your fist, squeeze your eyes shut, or you can even hold in your pee, just like UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

      3. Meditate

      FV_International _Insights_eja1

        Meditation is great for a lot of things – reducing stress, increasing focus, managing emotions. Now research suggests it even helps us build willpower! With all these benefits, can you afford not to meditate? An easy way to get started is to spend 10 minutes a day sitting in a calm position and focusing on your breath.

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        4. Reminders

        SONY DSC

          Our immediate desires to give in to temptations make it really challenging to resist them. Our emotional desires seem like a huge elephant and our rational self is like a small elephant rider by comparison. However, one way to steer the elephant is to set in physical reminders in advance to remind ourselves of what our rational self wanted to do. So put a note on your fridge that says “only one doughnut” or set an alarm clock to buzz when you want to stop playing video games.

          5. Eat

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          Eat

            Did you know that your willpower is powered by food? No wonder’s it’s so hard to diet! When we have low levels of glucose, our willpower goes down the drain. The best cure is a meal rich in protein, which produces a constant and steady glucose level and enables the most optimal willpower.

            6. Self-Forgiveness

            Forgive

              How is self-forgiveness connected to willpower? Well, what the science shows is that feelings of regret deplete your willpower. This is why those who eat a little too much ice cream and feel regret are then much more likely to just let themselves go and eat the whole pint or even gallon! Instead, when you give in to temptation, be compassionate toward yourself and forgive yourself. That way, you’ll have more willpower going forward!

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              7. Commitment

              Commitment 2

                The most important thing to strengthen your willpower is commitment to doing so! Only by committing to improving your willpower every day will you be able to take the steps described above. To do so, evaluate your situation and why you want to strengthen your willpower, make a clear decision to work on improving this area, and set a long-term goal for your willpower improvement to have the kind of intentional life that you want.

                Then break down this goal into specific and concrete steps that you will take based on the strategies described above. Research shows this is the best path for you to build your willpower! So what are the specific and concrete steps that you will take?

                Photo Credit: Smile!, Fist of Fury!, Gleb Tsipursky meditating in the park, 225/365 Reminders, pai eating, Forgive, Commitment

                Featured photo credit: Temptation/Lowes via flickr.com

                More by this author

                Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

                Cognitive neuroscientist and behavioral economist; CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts; multiple best-selling author

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                Last Updated on September 28, 2020

                The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

                The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

                At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

                Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

                One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

                When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

                So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

                Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

                This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

                Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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                When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

                Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

                One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

                Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

                An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

                When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

                Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

                Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

                We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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                By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

                Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

                While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

                I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

                You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

                Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

                When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

                Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

                Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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                Con #2: Less Human Interaction

                One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

                Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

                Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

                This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

                While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

                Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

                Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

                This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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                For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

                Con #4: Unique Distractions

                Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

                For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

                To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

                Final Thoughts

                Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

                We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

                More About Working From Home

                Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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