The ultimate trait to survive college, then adulthood

It’s not charm, beauty, or your personality.

Self-control.

It’s a word that you’ve used countlessly. It’s that small voice in your head telling you to abstain from eating another doughnut, the motivation behind exercising, and your conscience confirming that staying in to study was the right choice.

The amount of self-control we have ultimately defines us and forms the foundation of our willpower.

Willpower influences most of society’s unfortunate affairs such as crime, prejudice, addiction, financial instability, domestic violence, unbalanced diets, educational failure, and neglect of school and work. So why is it difficult to use our willpower?

Roy F. Baumeister, Ph.D., a psychologist from Florida State University has spent years trying to understand the science behind it. In his studies, we learn that humans have a limited source of willpower and there are factors that deplete and strengthen it.

His studies show that people tend to have poor results of self-control after it’s been used in an unrelated event. He explains,

“… we invited some students to eat fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies, and asked others to resist the cookies and munch on radishes instead. Then we gave them impossible geometry puzzles to solve. The students who ate the cookies worked on the puzzles for 20 minutes, on average. But the students who had resisted the tempting cookies gave up after an average of eight minutes.”

From this experiment, we discover that students who use more self-control during a task will have less willpower left for a new task. Constant acts of self-control diminish willpower.

Another variable that depletes willpower is decision-making.

Dr. Baumeister’s shares,

“…After making decisions, people perform worse at self-control. A dieter may easily avoid a doughnut for breakfast, but after a long day of making difficult decisions at work, he has a much harder time resisting that piece of cake for dessert.”

Although losing willpower is inevitable, the studies conducted also proved that willpower can be strengthened as well.

Glucose, a chemical in your body that is responsible for transporting energy in your brain and organs provide nourishment for your brain.

“Acts of self-control reduce blood glucose levels. Low levels of glucose predict poor performance on self-control tasks and tests. Replenishing glucose, even just with a glass of lemonade, improves self-control performance.”

When you have food in your system — even food you’re not too fond of, the glucose in it gives your brain a boost, makes it sounder, and increases your self-control. Your willpower is able to strengthen itself and recover from its previous losses.

Taking part of self-control exercises on a daily basis can also improve your self-control. When you train your body, the more exercises you try, the stronger you become. Mindless exercises such as using your opposite hand to open doors can subconsciously encourage self-control. Other exercises that may have more significance can be getting to bed on time and having balanced meals. Being disciplined with your actions and limiting your overindulgences are key aspects to obtaining success.

If you’re a college student still struggling with self-control, you’re not alone. Remind yourself that practicing the tricks of the trade will shape you positively, and should make adulthood easier for you. And if you ever come across a situation where you’ve lost your patience and willpower, just remember to grab a nice, cold glass of glucose ;)

The information and quotes from this post were retrieved from the American Psychological Association.


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