Boost Your Willpower With This Meditation Technique

Your willpower is constantly being tested, which makes eating healthier, exercising and waking earlier so hard. The good news is there's one powerful way to train our brains for more self-control. That's right, meditation.

Picture: Wiertz Sébastien/Flickr

Studies on the many benefits of meditation have been pouring in lately. The PicktheBrain blog notes that research indicates that just three hours of meditation can increase self-control and focus, while changes in the brain are visible after 11 hours.

If you want to increase your willpower, try this three-step meditation technique:

Kelly McGonigal [author of The Willpower Instinct (who also reminds us that we should remember our goals and values to form better habits)] says that the following meditation technique will get the blood rushing to your prefrontal cortex, which is pretty much the closest we can get to speeding up evolution and making the most of our brain’s potential:

1. Sit still and stay put. You can either sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground or sit on the floor with your legs crossed. Try to resist the impulses to move: see if you can ignore itches and urges to change your position. Sitting still is an important part of mediation because it teaches you not to follow your impulses automatically.

2. Turn your attention to your breath. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. In your mind, say “inhale” when you breathe in, and “exhale” when you breathe out. When you notice that your mind is wandering, bring it back, and keep focusing on your breathing. This activates prefrontal cortex and quiets the stress and craving centres of your brain.

3. Notice how it feels to breathe and how the mind wanders. After a few minutes, drop the words “inhale” and “exhale”, and focus solely on the sensation of breathing. Your mind might wander a bit more without these words. However, when you notice that you are thinking about something else, bring your attention back to breathing. You can say “inhale” and “exhale” for few rounds when you find it hard to refocus. This part helps to train both self-awareness and self-control.

This is much like the simple (although not necessarily easy) practice of meditating we've outlined before. The "inhale" and "exhale" cues, however, can be particularly useful when training your brain for better focus.

PicktheBrain calls meditation "willpower on steroids". Hit up the link below for more on increasing your willpower.

The Science of Self-Control: Can You Increase Your Willpower? [PicktheBrain]


    I actually use the method of shutting out all thoughts. It's a constant battle and extremely hard to do but you can actually get your mind to stop thinking about anything at all. The peace it brings is unparalleled. It feels like your brain and mind is resting for the first time ever.

    It will keep wanting to wander, and think about not thinking, but you have to reel it back and just relax. It's all about detaching and letting go of what you think of as you.

    I will never try to improve my willpower.. Which, I know I can achieve.. Because I have amazing willpower :3

    Great article and excellent discussion. Thank you.

    Have you come across mindfulness as a concept. I've been practising it for the last 6 months or so and found it to be extremely effective.

    Mindfulness is simply the practice of being 'aware' of your thoughts and bodily sensations in the present moment ... sort of watching yourself as you go through your daily activities. Very powerful over the longer term.

    A lot of my articles in my blog have this theme of mindfulness running through them.


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