Are you in control when it comes to your life? What about in the kitchen? This might be a tough question to answer, simply because it is not so uncommon to find comfort in tempting aromas and tasty treats. But if you worry that you may not have self-discipline to resist certain foods, or in other areas of your life, these self-control techniques and exercises can help strengthen your willpower!
According to Merriam-Webster, self-control is "restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires." It is also relative to willpower, or the response that comes from both the body and brain, predominantly as a reaction to an internal conflict. The prefrontal cortex (the section right behind your forehead) is the part of the brain that proposes emotional responses, behavior, and judgment. While you cannot necessarily transplant an alternative prefrontal cortex in hopes to make better decisions, there are tips to learn self-control and how to improve it.
1. Know Yourself
You know yourself better than any one, so fully analyze your ability to control situations and common reactions to them. You should also identify your personal temptations and take proactive steps to mitigate the risk of regularly succumbing to them. For instance, if you recognize cookies are your biggest weakness, perhaps keep them out of your line of sight or purchase just a single cookie or two at a time. Particularly in aim to develop and strengthen awareness, document how you experience and react to certain triggers to lessen impulsivity and strengthen self-control.
2. Learn How to Manage Stress
Under high stress, we often respond via flight or fight and make choices based on impulsivity. But rather than allowing stress to take over, start learning how to manage it to deter negative reactions and improve willpower. Stress-relieving techniques include practicing yoga, calling a friend, taking a walk, or simply relaxing which is described right below.
3. Just Relax
When feeling as if control is out of your hands, just relax. Taking a quick five minutes to relax and breathe can slowly lessen the intensity of a situation or temptation. Also take note of how you feel right after and whether or not you still want to engage in the initial action, including eating that box of cookies or giving in to that cigarette.
4. Consume A Balanced Diet
Food is energy the body needs to function at its prime and the ultimate "brain food." The brain runs on glucose and feeding it with nourishing foods allows the prefrontal cortex to carryout better decision-making processes. Consuming a balanced diet cannot only lower the risk of brain-glucose depletion, but build and prosper a healthier relationship with food.
5. Find A Healthy Distraction
When urges and cravings arise, it is not so infrequent to sit and fixate until you eventually succumb to it. However, finding healthy distractions whenever these sort of impulses occur can redirect the mind away from them. Sometimes doing something with your hands can be advantageous, including typing, writing, knitting, folding origami, or even texting a friend. Nonetheless, having a go-to activity can deter you away from the impulse or behavior you are aiming to control.
6. Incorporate Short Bouts of Exercise
While physical activity is well-known to support the health of the body, Science News reports short bouts of moderately intense exercise seems to boost self-control. Researchers speculate increased blood and oxygen flow to the pre-frontal cortex may be responsible for higher brain functions of memory, concentration, planning, and decision-making. And not to mention, exercise is also a healthy distraction!
The repercussions of inadequate sleep can be physically and mentally destructive, including the impairment of how the brain functions. Going without the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep costs the pre-frontal cortex precious glucose, ultimately compromising control and intensifying stress and cravings, especially to sugar and fat-laden foods.
8. Keep Your Action Plan Visible
"Out of sight, out of mind" may be reputable when trying to mitigate a temptation, but covering your action plan can tarnish effectiveness when it comes to gaining self-control. Keeping your plan visible keeps you engaged and motivated to continue implementing self-control exercises and techniques.
9. Self-Monitor and Modify as Needed
Self-monitoring helps us to not only become experts of our own behaviors, but poses the opportunity to determine if our plan needs to be modified. Regular self-monitoring assists the mind to keep focused on the goals at hand and produce positive changes.
10. Keep A Positive Attitude
Speaking of positive… Try to keep a positive attitude, as negative outlooks can be critically damaging and lead to poor self-control. Also recognize although some things are out of our control, we are responsible for our reactions. And rather than dwelling on undesirable circumstances, move on from destructive situations and continue practicing your self-control techniques with an optimistic outlook!