Think about willpower like a phone battery. You charge it overnight while you sleep, then wake up to a “full battery” in the morning. Then as you use your willpower to eat healthy, be productive at work, and finally get around to cleaning, you slowly drain your “battery”.
This is why after a long, stressful day at work you can feel completely exhausted – even if you just sat at a desk all day.
However, there are certain things that you can do make your battery last longer. Certain daily habits will strengthen your willpower and extend your “battery life”. And the best time to practice them, is in the morning.
1. Take Proper Sleep:
If you don’t charge your “willpower battery” enough overnight, you will automatically start the day off with less to use throughout the day. In scientific terms, sleep deprivation leads to what’s called “mild prefrontal dysfunction”. This is a state where your brain is unable to regulate your emotions or attention as easily.
Essentially, this state of mind is like being drunk – which we can all admit doesn’t exactly help our focus or self-control! So we are more likely to get frustrated when working on challenging tasks, which leads to getting mad or upset with those around us.
Now, despite the common myth that you need 8 full hours of sleep, there is no set number of hours that works for all people. Some need 10, some need 6, and everywhere in between. So find the right amount for you, and give yourself a fully charged battery to start the day.
2. Meditate Daily:
Meditation is the fastest and most effective way to increase your willpower and make your “battery life” last longer. By meditating, you are training the brain to focus and resist the urge to wander. Research shows that after just 2-3 days of practicing meditation for 10 minutes, your brain will be able to focus better, you will have more energy, and you will be less stressed.
There are a lot of myths surrounding meditation: burning incense, chanting, wearing robes, etc. So let’s start by explaining what meditation really is.
Meditation is simply the practice of bringing your thoughts to the present moment.
47% of our lives are spent either reminiscing about the past or thinking about what we are going to do in the future.
We spend very little time with a clear, focused mind on what we are doing right now. Meditation attempts to do just that. This is usually done by sitting upright in a room that is clear of distractions and focusing solely on your breathing.
So simply set aside 10 minutes in your morning routine to devote to meditation. After just 2-3 days, you will already see an increase in your willpower throughout the day!
To get started meditating, check out this article which will give you the tools and exercises you need to begin adding the habit of daily meditation.
3. Have Breakfast Like A king:
We’ve all heard that eating a healthy breakfast is important. But few know just how important it is – especially for your willpower! Food produces a chemical known as glucose, which is what the brain uses as its “willpower fuel”.
Any food that contains calories will give your brain glucose to work with. But not all glucose is created equally. Sugary foods will cause a quick spike of glucose, giving you willpower fuel for the short-term, but will cause a subsequent crash that depletes your willpower just as fast.
The best thing you can do is keep the glucose level in your bloodstream steady. This will give your brain a consistent reserve of fuel to exert willpower throughout the day. To accomplish this, researchers suggest a low-glycemic diet.
Here are some low-glycemic foods that will give you long-term willpower fuel:
Nothing fancy is required – just lean cuts of beef, poultry, pork and fish.
Specifically those nuts that are high in omega-3 fatty acids like walnuts, pecans and cashews. (Note: this does not include legumes like peanuts).
Fresh fruit is preferred over dried fruit because dried fruits have a high concentration of sugar in them. This will result in the glucose spike for the short term and lead to a subsequent crash. Some good choices are bananas, blueberries, apples and cherries.
4. Consume Lot of Veggies:
All vegetables will help build your long-term willpower, but the specific veggies have a lot of willpower fuel in them are root-based. These include potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions; which will all give you some serious willpower fuel!
If none of the above foods seem appealing to you for breakfast, try to see it from this perspective. Provided that you started the day with a good night’s sleep and 10 minutes of meditation, your level of willpower is going to be extremely high. So it will be easier for you to eat healthy now than it will be to eat healthy later.
I understand if you prefer to start the day with sugary cereals, pastries or any other unhealthy breakfasts. Who doesn’t? But if you can eat a low-glycemic breakfast, you will reward yourself with a long lasting willpower battery to use throughout the day!
4. Exercise Daily:
We all know that exercise is good for our health, but can it also be good for our willpower? In order to find out, researchers found 24 non-exercisers between 18 and 50 to partake in a 2-month study. They were given free gym memberships and asked to exercise just 1x/week for the first month and 3x/week for the second month.
Throughout the study, they would test the participants on various self-control activities from resisting temptations to persevering through challenging tasks.
The results were nothing short of remarkable.
After just 2 months of exercise every participant had indeed increased his or her ability to resist temptations and persevere on tasks.
But the benefits didn’t end there! Without any instruction by the researchers, the participants also:
· Procrastinated less
· Felt more in control of their emotions
· Reduced smoking, alcohol and caffeine intake
· Saved more money
· Ate less junk food
· Began eating a healthier diet
· Watched less TV
· Spent more time studying
· Splurged on impulse purchases less
· Were more likely to be on time to appointments
All of these activities occurred naturally from the habitual exercise!
Now, before you set a plan to exercise every single morning, let’s pause. It’s important to remember that for a full month, these participants only went to the gym 1x/week. That means they only went 4 times total in the entire first month!
Clearly, it is not necessary for you to go crazy with your exercise plan. To start getting all of the benefits listed above, you just need to make a plan that is consistent, not overwhelming. Whether you can exercise 1 morning/week or 4 mornings/week, it doesn’t matter. To see the benefits, you just need to set a plan that you will not fail.
5. Inspire Yourself:
“People say inspiration doesn’t last. Well, neither do showers. That’s why we recommend them daily.” – Zig Ziglar
We have all experienced the feeling of inspiration at some point in our lives. It may have been from a story in history, a speech by a great leader, or by a friend/family member. When we become inspired, we get a rush of energy that we feel can take us to new heights. It’s almost as if we get more willpower.
When we witness something inspiring, the part of the brain that thinks about long-term goals lights up. The neurons in this part of the brain start firing and we feel a rush of energy as we begin to believe in our dreams and goals.
This essentially means that by becoming inspired, we don’t just charge our battery, we get an upgraded one that can last even longer.
To tap into this willpower, find something inspiring that you can turn to in the morning. This will help you find the willpower you need even when times get tough.
My personal inspiration is the first known painting of Leonardo DaVinci, which is hanging in my room. It reminds me every day that even people from humble beginnings can become truly great – but only if they are willing to work as hard as he did.
6. Spend Time with Yourself:
Stress is one of the biggest drainers of your willpower battery. Stress releases a chemical in your body known as cortisol, which increases your anxiety, lowers your energy, and depletes your confidence.
And what is the biggest cause of stress in the morning? Feeling rushed.
Give yourself plenty of time to wake up, meditate, eat a healthy breakfast, exercise and find inspiration before you go to work. Yes, I know that in the 21st century world we live in, giving yourself more time in the morning and getting enough sleep is not easy.
But if you have to rush, the cortisol that your body produces may just wipe out all of the additional willpower from your perfect morning routine!
So do what you can to go to bed earlier, wake up earlier and give yourself plenty of time to build a long-lasting willpower battery life!