Can You Rely on Willpower? Here's What You Need to Know

When was the last time you felt like your ‘willpower’ let you down? Maybe it was last weekend when you unexpectedly indulged in a slice of cake (or two) with some friends. Or, you skipped your workout because you were just too tired after a long day at work. Regardless, it’s a common belief that if we just exercise our willpower, we’ll be able to resist all those tempting urges and stick to a healthy plan. When we give in (and trust us, it’s going to happen), we feel a sense of failure. It’s like we’ve let ourselves down and with it, thrown any progress we’ve made out the window. That’s a lot to put on an invisible power. Can you rely on willpower to keep your health and fitness goals on track? Here’s what you need to know about it.


What is Willpower?

Willpower means two things. First, it’s the ability to control yourself and second, it’s the strong determination that helps you to do something that’s difficult. It’s generated in the prefrontal cortex of our brains, the same area that helps us to make decisions and chase our goals.

Here’s a few things you probably didn’t know about willpower:

  1. It’s like a muscle – Just like overworked muscles, your willpower gets tired. But, you can train it to build strength and improve its function and stamina.
  2. Willpower likes good hydration and nutrition – When you’re hydrated and functioning on a healthy diet, your brain function is largely improved. This makes it much easier for you to maintain mental strength.
  3. Your mindset is powerful – Have you noticed that when you’re feeling bad, sad or tired, it feels like willpower isn’t on your side? It’s much easier to exercise willpower when we’re well-rested with a positive outlook.
  4. Our surroundings can affect willpower – Just like the people and places we surround ourselves with affect our mood, it also affects the strength of our willpower.
  5. It’s limited – Unfortunately, our mental strength is finite. That’s why you’re more likely to ‘give in’ to temptations after a long hard day or week. Rest, relaxation and sleep helps to recharge our willpower.


Can you Rely on Willpower?

Willpower might lead you the way you want through a lot of health and fitness decisions. But, solely relying on willpower means that you’ll be fighting yourself all day NOT to do the things you actually want to do. That doesn’t sound like fun and that’s why when we’re tired, stressed or just not feeling so strong, we ‘give in’ and let loose.


How to Strengthen Your Willpower

While you can’t always rely on willpower, it is a useful tool to have on side. Strengthen your willpower to make it easier to stay on track to your goals by:

  • Meditating to reduce stress and improve brain function
  • Exercising to release feel-good endorphins
  • Getting more sleep to improve decision making ability
  • Eating well and drinking lots of water
  • Practicing gratification to increase happiness
  • Creating a nutrition and exercise plan to reduce the need for decision making
  • Finding exercise and healthy foods you enjoy so you don’t have to do or eat something you don’t like
  • Reducing alcohol intake which impairs decision making
  • Avoid making decisions when you’re tired, upset or stressed

And lastly, if your willpower does ‘fail’ you, be kind to yourself! Remember that it happens to all of us and you can’t always rely on willpower to help you to make the best decision. Instead of feeling bad about it, do something that’s fun and relaxing or get some sleep so that you can recharge.

If you’d like help with creating an exercise and healthy eating plan to keep you on track, contact us today to learn more about our personal and group training sessions.