10 DAILY #HABITS THAT WILL GIVE YOU #INCREDIBLE #WILLPOWER

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle.

Success is a lot of small things done well, day after day.

What seems like an overnight success is usually a very long time in the making. Success is created from people who establish the right habits, then execute them over and over.

So I wanted to share with you the top 10 habits that have been scientifically proven to give you incredible willpower!

1.  MEDITATE

Meditation is the fastest and most effective way to increase your willpower. 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. However, it can be achieved with any activity that brings your full focus and attention.

For example, if you are completely focused on the task of cleaning dishes; without mentally going over your day, pondering another problem in your head, or thinking about what you will be doing next, you can achieve a state of meditation.

If your mind is clear and focused completely on the present task, you will see the benefits of meditation.

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.

2. EAT A LOW GLYCEMIC DIET

When the body takes in food, it creates a chemical known as glucose that travels through the blood stream. This is what the brain uses as its source of fuel to think, create, and exert willpower. So to ensure a healthy stock of willpower, we want to make sure our brain has enough glucose to use as energy.

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 for the long-term. To accomplish this, researchers suggest a low-glycemic diet.

Here are some low-glycemic foods that will give you long-term willpower fuel:

1. LEAN PROTEINS 

Nothing fancy is required – just lean cuts of beef, poultry, pork and fish.

2. NUTS

Specifically those nuts that are high in omega-3 fatty acids like walnuts, pecans and cashews. (Note: this does not include legumes like peanuts).

3. FRESH FRUIT

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. VEGETABLES

All vegetables will help build your long-term willpower, but specific veggies have a lot of willpower fuel in them are root-based. These include sweet potatoes, carrots and onions which will all give you some serious willpower fuel!

Do not try to completely overhaul your diet if you are not used to eating these types of foods. Instead focus on eating them for just one meal per day. The best of which would be eating them for breakfast.

3. GET ENOUGH SLEEP 

When you don’t get enough sleep, your willpower takes the biggest hit. When you are tired, your brain cells are not able to absorb glucose as efficiently as when you are well rested. This means that you begin lose the “power” in your willpower.

Then your brain will recognize the fact that it is not getting enough glucose, and immediately start to crave sugary foods and caffeine to replenish its supply. However, because your brain cells are not absorbing glucose as efficiently as they should be, not only will you give in to eating junk, you will eat much more than you need.

Your brain will continue to crave junk food until it gets as much glucose as it can out of your bloodstream – regardless of how many calories that may be.

Luckily, there are scientifically proven tactics that will help you get a better night’s sleep even without adding more hours:

1. A COMPLETELY DARK ROOM

Most of us underestimate the affect that lights in our room have on our sleep. When our room is completely dark, it helps our brain shut down and sleep more efficiently. This helps us get more rest out of the hours we lay in bed; helping to restore our willpower.

2. NAP

Other research suggests that it is the amount of consecutive hours you spend awake that matters the most. So breaking up the day with a nap can have significant benefits. It is better to sleep for 7 hours with a 1-hour nap than it is to sleep for 8 consecutive hours without taking that break during the day.

3. CREATE A RESERVOIR

Getting more sleep on the weekend will create a reserve of energy your brain can use for willpower during the week. So if you cannot squeeze more hours of sleep in during the week, see if you can catch up on the weekend.

4. EXERCISE 

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 go from not exercising at all to exercising every day, 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 1x/week or 4x/week, it doesn’t matter. To see the benefits, you just need to set a plan that you will not fail.

5.  FOCUS ON ONE TASK AT A TIME

Ready for a puzzle? See if you can write down a list of all 50 states.

When you have listed 10, see if you can continue writing them while also figuring out the answer to 17 x 24.

Were you able to do it?

We have 2 distinct parts of our brain that help in our problem-solving. One is the limbic system, which makes our easy and automatic decisions. This includes brushing our teeth and stopping at a red light. This part of the brain is also short-term minded, and is what motivates us to indulge in unhealthy food and get off of the treadmill.

The other is the pre-frontal cortex, which solves more difficult problems like how to effectively communicate or solve more complicated math equations like the one above. This is also the part of our brain that thinks long-term and is responsible for our willpower.

The problems above both require the pre-frontal cortex to solve. If I were to ask you to write the 50 states and do a simple problem like 10 x 5, you would have had no problem doing it. 10 x 5 is easy. It only requires our limbic system to solve, so we can successfully multi-task.

The more we multi-task, the more we train our limbic system. So by trying to do 4 things at once, we are unknowingly making the part of the brain that wants us to indulge stronger.

The pre-frontal cortex, however, cannot multi-task. The problems it deals with are too complicated. So by focusing on one task at a time, we are making the part of the brain that exerts willpower stronger!

So resist the temptation to multi-task and remain focused. This will train your willpower and help you make tough decisions.

6.  PRACTICE MINDFULNESS

We tend to believe that every choice we make throughout the day goes through a process of well-informed decision-making. But 45% of our daily-decision are made completely automatically. From what we decide to eat, what we decide to wear and what we decide to do when we first get to work, our brains are running on autopilot.

You can overcome this tendency by becoming more mindful of your daily decisions. This is as simple as pausing and questioning why you are making the decision to get coffee as soon as you make it into the office. Or why you are eating cereal for breakfast rather than eggs.

Simply question these daily decisions and you will strengthen your willpower to make better choices throughout the day.

7. SELF-MONITORING 

Something odd happens in our brains when we look at ourselves in the mirror. The part of the brain that would say “hey, that’s me in the mirror” is not activated. Instead it is a part of the brain that says “I wish I was taller, skinnier, more muscular, etc.”

In other words, rather than seeing see who we are, we see who we want to be. This is not because we are shallow, it is because we all have an ideal self that we want to live up to. With this ideal self in our mind, we begin to think and act more like them.

The best way to keep your ideal self in mind is through a process called Self-Monitoring. This involves keeping track of as much information on yourself as possible. Like with the mirror, you will look at the information on yourself and compare it to what you really want. This will strengthen your willpower and help you make better decisions.

To get started, check out the list of ways to begin self-monitoring at the bottom of this article.

8.  PLAY OFFENSE 

When researchers came across a group of people in the Netherlands who seemingly had unstoppable willpower, they thought they must be saints. They ate extremely healthy, exercised regularly, hardly procrastinated and reported less stress than almost everyone around them.

But they were not saints at all. Many of them reported that if they were to get behind a bar stool, they would never leave. Others reported that they were unable to resist sweets whenever they were around. It seemed that these “saints” were prone to the same temptations as the rest of us.

So what was their secret?

The secret, it turned out, was that these people simply did not put themselves in those situations. Their lifestyles were well-organized to prevent having to look temptation in the face.

These people played offense. They thought about what might tempt them in the future – whether it was alcohol, sweets, or distractions from work – and set themselves up to avoid them. They were seemingly willpower super heroes because they almost never had to use it.

In your life, look for the things that test your willpower. How can you play offense and remove future temptations?

9. FIND INSPIRATION

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 someone in our own lives. 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 pre-frontal cortex that thinks about the long-term 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 give the pre-frontal cortex more power. This strengthens our willpower and makes it easier to work towards our long-term goals.

To tap into this willpower, find something inspiring that you can turn to on a daily basis. This will help you find the willpower you need even when times get tough.

10. CHUNKING 

The last and perhaps the most important willpower habit is chunking. Chunking is the process of taking a large task, goal, dream, etc. and breaking it into manageable “chunks”.

If you’ve ever had a goal, you know how exciting it can be at first. You can see the “after photo” of your life when the goal is achieved – and you love what you see.  You imagine all of the great things about the “new you” and you can’t wait to get started working towards that goal!

Then it’s time to actually do the work. And whether that work is putting pen to paper, or putting foot to treadmill, you get a sudden rush of being completely overwhelmed. You see just how much work it’s going to take to get you from where you are, to where you want to be. Then you get paralyzed by the fact that you don’t know where to begin. So you don’t bother trying, or you lose the persistence to keep going.

Chunking works because it shifts your focus from that larger goal, into smaller chunks that are easier for your brain to comprehend. If your goal is to follow a 12-week exercise plan, it can be overwhelming when you’re tired on day 4 and thinking about the fact that you have 80 more days of this. 

But if you shift your focus to simply accomplishing the workout plan today, you are far less likely to become overwhelmed. Then, before you know it, 20, 40, 60 days have passed and you are more confident than ever that we can make it to the end.

CONCLUSION

Excellence is a habit. It is a lot of small things done well, day-after-day. Starting any one of the habits listed above has been proven to give you incredible willpower over time.But you must be consistent.

It will be far more beneficial for you to begin just 1 of these daily willpower habits and do it consistently, than to do all 10 for a short period of time. So select just 1 habit to add to your life and stick to it. After it has truly become a habit, move on to the next one. Over time, you will see incredible benefits to your willpower!

Why some people learn quickly, and some slowly

Why are some people able to master a new skill quickly while others take longer? That is because the neural activity in quick learners is different from that in slow learners, reveals a study.

The neural activity in quick learners is different from that in slow learners, reveals a study (Source: Thinkstock Images)

The neural activity in quick learners is different from that in slow learners, reveals a study

 

The findings suggest that recruiting unnecessary parts of the brain for a given task — similar to thinking over a problem — plays a critical role in this important difference.

“It’s useful to think of your brain as housing a very large toolkit,” said lead researcherprofessor Scott Grafton from University of California Santa Barbara.

“When you start to learn a challenging new skill, such as playing a musical instrument, your brain uses many different tools in a desperate attempt to produce anything remotely close to music.”

“With time and practice, fewer tools are needed and core motor areas are able tosupport most of the behaviour,” he explained.

However, beyond a certain amount of practice, some of these cognitive tools might actually be getting in the way of further learning, the researchers found.

The study participants played a simple game while their brains were scanned with fMRI.

The technique measures neural activity by tracking the flow of blood in the brain, highlighting which regions are involved in a given task.

Surprisingly, the participants who showed decreased neural activity learned the fastest.

The critical distinction was seen in the frontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex — thought to be most critical for executive function.

“In fact, good executive function is necessary for complex tasks but might actually be a hindrance to mastering simple ones,” Grafton said.

Grafton also said that the frontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex are among the last brain regions to fully develop in humans, which may help explain why children are able to acquire new skills quickly as compared to adults.

“People who can turn off the communication to these parts of their brain are the quickest in their completion times,” said lead author Danielle Bassett from Universityof Pennsylvania.

The findings were published online in Nature Neuroscience.

#Relationship #quality linked to #mortality

A team of researchers has directly linked mortality and blood pressure to relationship quality.

Relationship quality linked to mortalityWhile other studies have shown that stress and negative marital quality can influence mortality and blood pressure, there has not been research that discussed how it might affect married couples over time.

Using systolic blood pressure as a gauge, Oxford University researchers assessed whether an individual’s blood pressure is influenced by their own as well as their partner’s reports of chronic stress and whether there are gender differences in these patterns.

This article addresses several questions like does chronic stress predicts blood pressure? Does the association between chronic stress and blood pressure vary between husbands and wives? Does negative relationship quality predict blood pressure? Does the association between negative relationship quality and blood pressure vary by gender? Does negative marital quality moderate the stress-blood pressure link? And does the moderating effect of negative marital quality differ for wives and husbands?

This research also indicates that it is important to consider the couple as a whole rather than the individual when examining marriage and health. Most importantly, this study revealed that wives’ stress has important implications for husbands’ blood pressure, particularly in more negative relationships. Specifically looking at the effects of negative relationship quality, researchers found that effects weren’t recognized when examining individuals but there were when examining interactions between both members of couple.

Lead author Kira S. Birditt said that they were particularly excited about these findings because they show that the effects of stress and negative relationship quality are truly dyadic in nature.

Birditt added that an individuals’ physiology is closely linked with not only his or her own experiences but the experiences and perceptions of their spouses. They were particularly fascinated that husbands were more sensitive to wives’ stress than the reverse especially given all of the work indicating that wives are more affected by the marital tie.

They speculated that this finding may result from husbands’ greater reliance on wives for support which may not be provided when wives are more stressed, noted Birditt.

The study appears in the Journals of Gerontology.

7 things #happy #couples do #differently

How you choose to react to trying situations says plenty about whether your bond will last. Here are things happy lovers do differently.

7 things happy couples do differentlyIt’s part of the game. Every couple has to deal with trying situations. But what separates the madly-in-love from the ones who are destined for a break-up is the handling. The main difference being that unhappy couples lack coping skills. Here’s how unhappy couples react in difficult situations, and how their happy counterparts respond to them differently. Where do you fit?

ONE OF YOU HAS LOST A JOB

Unhappy couple: One partner might get angry and critical, and set the blame game rolling. But questions like, ‘How could you let this happen?’ and ‘Why didn’t you see it coming?’ show a major lack of empathy— and instead of relieving some of the burden, they add to it.

Happy couple: Empathy is what sets them apart. For them it is all about being each other’s emotional anchor. First, s/he acknowledge the disappointment the partner is going through. Next, s/he would offer to help in some way — perhaps, by offering to reach out to people who might have leads, or try to take on some of the responsibility.

SOMEONE HITS ON YOUR PARTNER

Unhappy couple: Now, here’s treading the dangerous zone. If you are in an unhappy relationship, you are susceptible to jealousy. You are likely to ignore any factors that would explain the flirting, and chances are that you may blame your partner for encouraging playful banter. Suspicion is quick to arrive when couples don’t trust each other. Sounds familiar?

Happy couple: Even if you’re uncomfortable with someone flirting with your guy, if you’re in a happy relationship, the situation can make it stronger. A couple would view the flirtation as a chance to enhance intimacy, or simply laugh it off. A simple tip to learn from the happily-ever-kind, instead of freaking out, you reroute that energy into your own relationship.

PARENTS DISAPPROVE OF THE RELATIONSHIP

Unhappy couple: This quandary has high probability to tear an unhappy couple apart. If your boyfriend’s mother didn’t like you, he would ignore your feelings and side his mother. He’d hold you responsible and place unreasonable expectations on you to go along with his mother’s requests.

Happy couple: Pairs with strong relationships tackle this kind of situation as a team. If his mom plays nasty, he’d apologise for her rude behaviour. He’d then suggest that you talk to her together, or he would speak to her on your behalf.

NO LOVE FOR THE BESTIE

Unhappy couple: If you thought his best friend was a meanie, you’d let your guy know all the time. You’d also probably limit his time with the friend, or act awkward in front of him and let the buddy know how much you disapprove his/her presence.

Happy couple: If you can’t stand his best buddy, you’ll be honest but understanding. You would explain that you don’t like the friend, but give your guy or girl the space to hang out with them. You’d also express that you would rather not be involved when the two of them are catching up, but be cordial when he/she is around.

NO TIME FOR LOVE

Unhappy couple: If someone isn’t sexually satisfied, they’d blame the other person in a turbulent relationship. And the accused partner is often left feeling inadequate.

Happy couple: In relationships where one person isn’t getting as much physical pleasure as they would appreciate, they’d explain their disappointment but still empathise with their partner.

ONE OF YOU IS A WORKAHOLIC

Unhappy couple: Your guy would demand that you start coming home earlier and be upset if you didn’t. He might lash out by doing something like not having any food prepared. He’d find ways to show his resentment in his words.

Happy couple: If you’re always at work in an attempt to climb the corporate ladder, your partner might be disappointed, but he’d understand. S/he would, perhaps, explain how your late hours make him/her feel, but s/he’d be proud of how hard you’re working. The two of you would come up with a plan to get in some extra relaxation time.

ONE OF YOU IS SICK

Unhappy couple: If he got sick, you might get upset with him for it. You may even, unconsciously, disappear on him/her or withdraw support. While it’s understandable that it becomes more of a burden, getting angry in that way doesn’t help your bond, nor the one who’s sick.

Happy couple: A happy couple would talk the illness out and understand the difficulty it was placing on both. The ill person would acknowledge and show appreciation for everything the other was doing. Of course, the healthy one would express understanding of how tough it was on the one with the illness.