Sustaining Your Willpower in 2014 and Beyond- The Neuroscience Behind Making Resolutions Stick

Starting with a tradition as far back in history as the ancient Babylonians, man has sought to make a promise at the beginning of each New Year-to start fresh and to begin anew.

Statements are easy to make, but making those statements into lasting commitments is a harder task.  Jonah Lehrer’s article “Blame it on the Brain”, December 26, 2009 edition of the Wall Street Journal, explains the neuroscience behind why it is so hard to sustain willpower. The article metaphorically compares our brain to a muscle, one that can only hold so many things before it finally gives out.  He suggests spreading multiple resolutions out over a period of time so that we don’t tax our brains too much, and tells us to be more self-aware of our willpower flaws so we can fix them. “A tired brain, preoccupied with its problems, is going to struggle to resist what it wants, even when what it wants isn’t what we need.”

Most importantly, he tells us we can strengthen our willpower by using it-flexing our brain muscle. It is our thoughts that change our thinking and lead to distraction. “…When a dangerous desire starts coming on, just remember: Gritting your teeth isn’t the best approach, as even the strongest mental muscles quickly get tired. Instead, find a way to look at something else.”

As we work to better ourselves, our thoughts and our lives with our 2014 New Year’s resolutions, remember that there are many places to get professional support.  Whether you look to a coach, a therapist or are contemplating hiring an organizer, “Resolutions are more sustainable when shared, both in terms of with whom you share the benefits of your resolution, and with whom you share the path of maintaining your resolution. Peer-support makes a difference in the success rate of New Year’s resolutions.” Frank Ra, author, Dharma instructor, coach.

Jenny Power 1/6/2014

 

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