just give in: five indulgences that actually boost self-control

From Psychology Today magazine, August 2012.

Willpower diminishes as the day wears on, but anything that reduces stress, boosts your mood, or recharges your energy can also reboot your stores of self-control. The following five strategies may look like temptations and distractions, but think of them as strategic indulgences. Help your willpower bounce back –by giving it a break. -Kelly McGonigal

  1. REALITY TELEVISION: Willpower is contagious. Many reality shows feature people working hard to overcome obstacles as they lose weight, face their fears, or organize their clutter. You can “catch” extra self-control just by watching someone else pursue a goal.
  2. A SNACK: The brain uses more energy for willpower than for just about anything else. When your blood sugar level drops, your brain is less able to concentrate and manage your impulses. A small nibble that increases blood sugar can nudge the brain back to self-control mode.
  3. YOUTUBE: It’s easy to disappear into an hours-long hole of piano-laying kitties and baby hedgehogs. But try to satisfy yourself with just a few minutes of cuteness. Research shows that watching a funny video restores depleted willpower and can help you get back on track with difficult tasks.
  4. AN AFTER-NOON NAP: Willpower is often highest in the morning, after the brain is refreshed by sleep. When you’re tired, it becomes harder to control impulses. Sneaking in a short power nap –which studies show reduces stress, improves mood, and restores focus –can dial back the usual willpower drain.
  5. A SINGLE ESPRESSO: Caffeine gets a bad rap, but in reasonable doses, it can actually reduce stress. In fact, studies show that small amounts of caffeine balance the autonomic nervous system, making you both calmer and more alert –perfect for resisting temptation: “Hold the whipped cream, please.”
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About Annika Voelpel

* former director of health & fitness programs at the sutton place hotel * former head therapist of duquette strength clinic * entering 10th year as a professional trainer * registered kinesiologist and active-rehabilitation specialist * level 1 track & field, gymnastics, dance, and aquatics coach * certified in the postural reprogramming system (PRS) * certified pilates instructor and acupressure massage practitioner * sports nutrition and healthy-cooking expert * seminar speaker and former presenter at the global youth assembly * former national level gymnast and competitive dancer * former varsity track and field competitor * experienced fitness model
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