11 Ways to Stay Energized All Day

Stuck Moment: It’s 3 pm and you’re down for the count. You’re tired, hungry, and cranky — longing for a venti-size, two-sugar latte. Sigh. Once again, the rest of this workday is going to be an unproductive drag.

But it doesn’t have to be. All that’s required are some small diet and exercise fine-tuning to sharpen that remarkable instrument you call your body. Because what you feed it and how you care for it affects the physical and mental factors that contribute to productivity: Mood. Confidence. Concentration. Energy. Memory. Your immune system.

Even better, these tweaks to your daily habits are so easy to implement that they can quickly become second nature — building a positive and lasting impact on what you can get done. Let’s get started.

Go easy on your digestive system. Digestion is work for your body. After you eat, increased blood flows to your stomach and intestines for the energy-hungry task of breaking food down — energy which then isn’t available for other kinds of work. Like brain work. On average, if you eat a mixed diet of carbs, proteins, and fats, 5% to 15% of the calories (a.k.a. energy) you take in are used for digestion. To compare, the brain uses about 20%.

While some foods, like fats and alcohol, take extra work to digest, others, such as a pastry or white toast with jam, break down easily to glucose (the sugar that fuels brain and muscles). You get a quick burst of energy (yay!). But as soon as 15 minutes later, you’ll crash (oh no!) and need another sugar-fix. Why? Because your brain needs glucose delivered in a steady supply to keep it running at its best.

The upshot: Eat the right foods, in the right amounts so that the energy produced isn’t “eaten” right back up by your stomach. And eat to control the release of glucose into your system to avoid the blood sugar roller coaster.

Here are five easy ways to do that:

  1. Your morning meal helps set your blood sugar pattern for the day. What you want: fiber, slow-burning carbs, some fat, and some protein. Try a shake (soy, almond, or low-fat milk) with fresh or frozen fruit. Or an omelet with veggies and multi-grain toast.
  2. Choose foods low on the glycemic index, which means that they burn slowly, giving your brain that nice even flow of energy. Choose toast with whole grains over a white bagel. A handful of nuts and dried fruit over a cookie. Here is a helpful chart listing high, medium, and low-glycemic foods.
  3. Avoid heavy meals. That three-martini bistro lunch you see on Mad Men? Terrible for productivity. Instead, order salads, veggies, a high protein-to-carb ratio such as a baked potato with tuna or a light turkey sandwich. Go big on volume (to help you stay full) but judicious on calories (to help you stay perky).
  4. If you do opt for fast-burning carbs, counteract them with fiber-rich foods — even a snack-size portion of carrot sticks can slow the release of sugar into your blood stream. Fiber also helps you stay full longer, so you don’t get distracted by cravings. Use this chart to check the fiber content of common grains, proteins, fruits and vegetables. (Berries and lentils are big winners in the fiber department.)
  5. Avoid foods that you know make you feel sluggish or bloated. Gluten, dairy, and soy are common culprits.

Get into the focus and memory zone. We all know the feeling when our mind wanders and nothing sticks. You scan the same paragraph over and over. And just when you finally feel like you’ve got it and flip the page, whoosh! It’s gone.

The ability to concentrate and retain information, like your energy level, depends on how you tune your instrument. Studies show that diet and exercise choices not only affect mental alertness, but also memory formation. Fortunately, it doesn’t require a diet overhaul. There’s lots of easy stuff that you can do right now to make today (and tomorrow) work better.

  1. Get in a half hour of low to moderate intensity aerobic workout. No need to cross-fit or marathon-train to get brain-boosting benefits. Instead of carpooling, take a brisk walk to work. Or jump on a bike. Or get on the elliptical, where you can review an important brief while your blood gets pumping. Exercise and learning are the perfect multi-tasking companions; working out during or just before a demanding learning task has been shown to improve memory or brain performance. 
  2. Stay hydrated. A parched system can tire you and cause headaches, making it hard to concentrate. You know the drill: eight eight-ounce glasses of water throughout the day. And avoid the double-whammy of sodas and alcohol when you need to get stuff done: They dehydrate you and funk up your blood sugar and digestion.
  3. In addition to plenty of water, eight foods that help you focus are blueberries, green tea, avocados, leafy green vegetables, fatty fish, dark chocolate, flax seeds, and nuts.

Tend to your immune system. On average, we get two to five colds a year. But studies show that it’s possible to halve your chances of getting sick with some simple choices.

  1. Just 20 minutes of light to moderate exercise (enough to break a sweat) five days a week will boost your immune system. If you do catch a bug, researchers found that regular exercise can reduce the length and severity.
  2. Eat lots of fruit, especially citrus, during cold season. The vitamin and mineral benefits boost your immune systems, and Vitamin C can actually help reduce the duration of a cold by a day.
  3. Avoid suppressing your immune system with sugar and alcohol. These indulgences make you more vulnerable to bugs and can slow recovery.
  4. Sleep well because when your sleep is out of sync with your schedule, your immune system suffers. When ready for bed, shut off screens — TV, smart phones, tablets, computers — and dim lights to cue your body for rest.

Boost your body to boost your mood. Confidence, stress, and happiness levels are hugely influenced by chemical and hormonal fluctuations in the body — i.e., diet and exercise. And they, of course, affect your productivity. These three actions will pump up your mood to power through your to-do list:

  1. If you’re a non-morning person who needs to function in the A.M., eating breakfast regularly helps you avoid becoming tired and cranky. Eat something light — not too much fat, not too many fast-burning carbs — such as a shake with almond or soy milk and fresh or frozen fruit. And don’t eat until you’re fully alert, which is when your body is ready to start digesting.
  2. Regulate your coffee intake. While caffeine can jolt you awake, too much at the wrong time, like early morning on a empty stomach, can kick you into an adrenalin overload, stressing your system, and leaving you with the jitters or mood swings. However, an afternoon coffee (go easy on the sugar) is a good offset to the slowness caused by a heavy lunch.
  3. Finally, there are so many benefits to exercise that there’s really no reason not to. For instance, just 20 minutes of walking or other mild workout will boost endorphins and other chemicals that give you a feeling of euphoria, help your body and mind reset, and leave you feeling clearer and fresher.

This article originally appeared on unstuck.com and was written by Unstuck

3 Chinese Reflexology and Acupressure Points for High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

So you’ve got high blood pressure? And you’re looking for a natural cure to treat your hypertension and lower your blood pressure naturally without drugs. Discover how Chinese Reflexology and Traditional Chinese Medicine can help bring your body back into balance.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I don’t deal with cures here. That’s because diseases are simply labels to describe a particular set of symptoms in your body and most “cures” focus on eliminating the symptoms, but they very rarely address the root cause of the disease. According to The Merck Manual, the world’s most widely used medical reference book, primary hypertension (high blood pressure with no known cause) is the most common type of high blood pressure and it “has no cure.”

However, there’s ALWAYS a root cause for high blood pressure. It doesn’t just come about randomly. Your body is trying to communicate something very important to you. When you see an elevated blood pressure reading, your body has a message that it’s been trying to tell you for a very long time.

It’s probably been telling you this for years, only you’ve chosen not to listen. So what is your body telling you? Because once you start to listen and follow through on what your body is asking for, you will see improvement in your health and well-being.

When you take drugs to control your blood pressure, you stop hearing the warning sign from your body. Sure, your blood pressure might be in the range of normal again, but you haven’t dealt with the underlying concern that caused it to spike in the first place. You need to resolve that in order for your blood pressure to naturally return to normal levels.

Taking drugs is akin to sticking in earplugs when your house is burning down so that you don’t hear the smoke detector going off.

Obviously, if you’re on medication to lower your blood pressure, don’t stop taking the medication or start reducing it without consulting your medical practitioner. Work with your doctor, but understand that while the drugs help keep your blood pressure within a normal range and subsequently reduce the risk of damage to organs in your body, the drugs are not a cure.

If you want to be well naturally, you have to address the root cause and listen to the messages from your body. This amazing physical marvel that is your body has an innate wisdom and ability to heal itself. Your body knows what to do when you cut yourself or catch a cold. The same holds true with hypertension. It might take more time and effort on your part, but it is possible to lower your blood pressure naturally.

We’ve all heard stories of people making radical changes to their lives, losing weight, exercising, cleaning up their diet and seeing a reduction in their blood pressure and/or blood sugar levels. Your body can do it too. You just have to stop doing whatever it is that’s raising your blood pressure and give your body the support it needs so that it can return to balance.

What Is High Blood Pressure?

Let’s start with a quick overview of what high blood pressure a.k.a. hypertension is. According to The Merck Manual, high blood pressure is defined as:

“sustained elevation of resting systolic blood pressure (greater than or equal to 140 mmHg), diastolic blood pressure (greater than or equal to 90 mmHG), or both. Hypertension with no known cause (primary) is most common; hypertension with an identified cause is usually due to a kidney disorder. Usually, no symptoms develop unless hypertension is severe or long-standing.”

The Merck Manual also mentions that lifestyle can help control blood pressure, including things like:

  • 30 minutes a day of regular aerobic activity
  • Losing weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating more fruits and vegetables
  • Reducing your consumption of fats

Why You Should Read This Article Even if You Don’t Have High Blood Pressure

For this article, I’ll focus primarily on primary hypertension since it’s the most common type. However, I will write a bit more about secondary hypertension (which is a result of another condition, usually a kidney issue) when I write about the Chinese Reflexology Kidney point. If you do have secondary hypertension, this doesn’t mean you should skip over everything else in this article. Most of this information can be of tremendous benefit for your health and well-being—even if you don’t have high blood pressure!

The only reason I say “can be” of benefit is not because it’s not relevant to most people, but because it is only beneficial if you choose to apply what you’ve learned.

A lot of people seek improvement in their health and well-being and devour dozens of self-help books, do tons of online research and ask numerous people for advice. Then they don’t do anything with the advice.

I know because I used to be one of those people. Many years ago, I was seeing a naturopath during my “Year of Illness.” He made several recommendations which in hindsight were very valid suggestions and would have made a significant difference in helping me turn my health around sooner. Each time I saw him, I kept asking for advice. The problem was that I wasn’t following any of it!

Sometimes it can seem daunting to make radical changes in your life when you’re so used to doing things a particular way. However, if you don’t make any changes, then you will continue on the same course you’ve always being on.

If you make just one little change, you open yourself up to a different path. If you alter your course by one degree, it doesn’t make much difference when you walk a few feet, but if you think of the difference one degree makes to a boat or plane’s destination, you realize what a big impact it can have. What if the Apollo 11 was off by one degree in its trip to the moon?

That’s all it takes, one measly little tiny degree to dramatically alter your health and your life. You start off by making a few small changes. This leads to making a few more small changes, and then even more small changes, until one day you look back and realize that you made one great big change.

Almost every monumental change happens this way. There’s always something going on below the surface and change occurs at an incremental level over time. It happens inside of you before you see the “overnight” change or experience your aha moment. So if you think you can’t do it, then your first step is to think maybe you can. That’s your incremental change.

Everything Starts with Energy

At the heart of Chinese Reflexology and Traditional Chinese Medicine is the concept of Qi. This is life force energy. It’s the energy of creation and it flows through your body just like blood circulates through your arteries and veins.

The human body has 12 primary channels or pathways for Qi to flow. The pathways are like a circulatory system for energy. When your Qi is flowing as it should, your body is in a state of balance. You feel energized, alive and healthy. However, when your Qi is disrupted, this disharmony eventually shows up as physical symptoms in your body if the Qi imbalance continues for an extended period of time.

It’s easy to understand this when you compare the flow of Qi to a river. If the river is flowing smoothly, then the ecosystem is in balance. However, if the river is obstructed, sediment begins to accumulate and eventually plugs up the river, leading to problems both upstream and downstream.

Stress can constrict the flow of Qi in your body leading to obstructed energy in some areas of your body and not enough flowing to others. To return to balance, you need to ensure that your Qi is flowing smoothly and abundantly throughout your body.

Energy Disharmonies Related to High Blood Pressure

It’s interesting to note that you can actually feel hypertension when taking someone’s pulse. Feeling the pulse is one of the major diagnostic tools in Traditional Chinese Medicine. At first, all pulses feel the same, but over time with lots of practice, you begin to notice the subtle differences in people’s pulses. Some are slow, deep and weak. Others feel rapid, close to the surface and pulsate strongly.

For high blood pressure, the pulse often feels very tense like a rope would feel when you’re pulling a heavy load. When the rope is sitting in a pile, it’s very loose and relaxed. When you pull on it like in a tug of war, the rope feels very taut. There are also other types of pulses associated with high blood pressure and these different pulses give clues about the different energy disharmonies going on in a person’s energy meridians.

For high blood pressure, the two energy meridians that are most commonly involved with hypertension are:

  • Kidney meridian
  • Liver meridian

Acupuncture treatments for high blood pressure almost always involve points that treat disharmonies in the Kidney and Liver meridians. Additional acupuncture points are selected based on the other energy disharmonies present in one’s body. People are diagnosed according to “zang fu” patterns. These patterns describe excesses or deficiencies in the organs and energy meridians of the body.

Some of the most common patterns associated with high blood pressure include:

  • Liver fire
  • Liver fire with a deficiency of Kidney Yin
  • A deficiency in both Yin and Yang
  • Damp obstruction

Explaining each of these patterns can get pretty complicated. It’s way too much information for this article, but it would definitely be interesting fodder for an online workshop! If you’re curious to learn more, you can always Google these terms as there are many online resources discussing Traditional Chinese Medicine.

I do caution against self-diagnosis. Zang fu pattern diagnosis is usually more complicated than simply matching your symptoms to a description of the zang fu pattern. In real life, people don’t follow textbook descriptions.

Sure, there are a few people who are textbook cases, but most people display a broad range of symptoms and it’s the interaction of the symptoms that can make them appear completely opposite of what you would expect.

That’s why Chinese Reflexology is so awesome and effective because you don’t have to figure out what the underlying zang fu patterns are. When you know all of the points in this system of Chinese Reflexology—over 50 in total—and you practice them regularly and consistently, your body knows what to do to bring your Qi into balance.

Reflexology and Acupressure Points for Hypertension

There are three points that are beneficial to massage. They’re a great starting point (bad pun intended) for health and wellness. These points help boost your Qi, get it flowing and also help nourish underlying deficiencies that can cause high blood pressure.

1. Chinese Reflexology Point for the Kidney

WARNING: Do not massage the Kidney point if you are pregnant because it is located near the acupuncture point, Kideny-1, which is used for inducing labour.

The Kidney point is one of the most important points to massage for hypertension. That’s because it helps to boost your Kidney Qi, harmonize the Kidney meridian, and tonify (yup, that’s a word in Traditional Chinese Medicine lingo) Kidney deficiencies that may be at the root of elevated blood pressure.

As well, those suffering from secondary hypertension related to the kidneys will also benefit from this point. Harmonizing the Kidney meridian helps to support kidney function. If you ‘d like to read more about this point and how it helped my grandmother when she had kidney failure, sign up for my newsletter and you’ll receive a series of complimentary online lessons. The Kidney point is lesson 3.

How to Locate and Massage the Kidney Reflexology Point

Your Kidney reflexology point is located on the soles of both feet. To find this point, imagine a horizontal line dividing your foot in half from the tip of your big toe (line 1 in diagram) to the base of your heel (line 4 in diagram).

Your Kidney point is located above this horizontal line (line 3 in diagram) and below the line at the bottom of the ball of your foot (line 2 in diagram).

Next, imagine a vertical line dividing your foot in half. It intersects with the horizontal line (line 3) to form four quadrants. Two thirds of the Kidney point is located in the top inside quadrant and the other third is located in the top outside quadrant.

To massage this point, press it with your thumb and rub up and down for about 15 to 30 seconds. Alternately, you can use your knuckles to rub it in an up and down motion. Repeat for the other foot. Practice this daily.

If you feel any skin irritation caused by the friction of rubbing, stop massaging the point until the skin heals. You can use a lubricant like almond oil or Vaseline to reduce the friction.

If you’d like to learn more about the Kidney point, including more detailed instructions on how to accurately locate this point, you can click here to sign up for your free lessons.

2. Tai Chong (Liver-3)

WARNING: Do not massage the Tai Chong (Liver-3) point if you are pregnant. This point powerfully moves Qi and is contraindicated (not to be used) when pregnant as it can induce labour.

Tai Chong, also known as Liver-3 (LV-3) is located on the Liver meridian of your body. In Chinese Medicine, the Liver plays a key role in ensuring the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body. The emotions of anger and frustration are associated with the Liver and they negatively impact the Liver’s ability to smooth the flow of Qi in your body.

How to Locate and Massage Liver-3

This point is located on the top of the foot in the webbing between the big toe and the second toe. Use your thumb to feel for the bones of the two toes into you can feel where they intersect. Then slide your thumb about a thumb-width above this intersection and press into the webbing between the bones. Press and hold for about one minute on each foot.

This point is especially beneficial for smoothing the flow of Liver Qi in your body as well as nourishing blood and yin deficiencies in the Liver.

You may be wondering why I’m not teaching the Liver reflexology point here. I only teach this point in workshops and classes because one of your liver’s primary functions is to filter the blood and break down toxins in the body.

What this means is that over time, especially if you’re not 100% healthy, toxins can build up in the Liver. If you massage this point without guidance, you can release more toxins than your system can handle and you could overwhelm your body, resulting in detox symptoms such as irritability, rash or fatigue. They’ll eventually clear away, but why make yourself miserable when there’s a better way to approach this?

Part of the healing process to bring balance to your body is to heal with a balanced approach :).

3. Shen Men (Heart-7)

The English translation of Shen Men is “Spirit Gate.” Because stress and tension are major factors in raising your blood pressure, it’s important to calm down to give your body room to heal.

Constant stress increases tension in your arteries and veins. It disrupts the natural flow of Qi in your body. This shows up differently in different people, but if you have high blood pressure, this is the way it’s showing up in your body.

Your body is telling you that need to de-stress. And if you have kidney-related secondary hypertension, your body is telling you to look at the factors that affect balance in your Kidneys and Kidney meridian. You can learn about this in greater detail in the article, 3 Chinese Reflexology Points to Get Instant Feedback on Your Health and Wellbeing

The long and the short of it is that you’ve probably got a long history of working too much and pushing yourself too hard. You may also have a longstanding habit of putting others ahead of yourself.

How to Locate and Massage Heart-7

To locate the Heart-7 point, look at your wrist with the palm facing upwards. Right at the base of your palm where your hand meets your wrist is a crease in the skin. While there are quite a few lines in this area, one will appear more prominent than the others.

Next, notice where the base of your pinky finger and your ring finger meet. Imagine a vertical line from this point reaching downwards towards your wrist crease. Press on the wrist crease where this imaginary line intersects with it.

Feel for a slight indentation between your bone and the tendon in your wrist. When your thumb presses into this depression, you’ve located your “Spirit Gate.” Press and hold this point for about 60 seconds on each wrist. Whenever you’re feeling upset or stressed, you can press on this point to help calm yourself down.

Additional Chinese Reflexology Points for High Blood Pressure

The truth is that there are no magical five reflexology points that you can massage to immediately reduce your high blood pressure. Even with acupuncture, you need multiple treatments over weeks or months in order to impact your blood pressure readings.

For high blood pressure, consistently massaging all of the Chinese Reflexology points on your feet would result in the greatest benefit because everything is interconnected. If you think about it, when Western Medicine can’t pinpoint the cause for a disease or ailment, it’s probably because more than one element is involved. For example, you can’t just look at your nose to heal yourself of allergies.

When you regularly massage all of your reflexology points, and ideally with a reflexology stick, your body gradually returns to balance because you address the underlying Qi disharmonies in your body. Chinese Reflexology is about healing your whole body rather than fixating on some numbers appearing in a blood pressure reading.

To understand which points are best for your health, I recommend reading my article on How to Figure Out Which Are the Best Chinese Reflexology Points for You to Massage.

I know, I know, you want all the info now, but grasshopper, first you must learn how to walk before you run :).

Three Key Takeaways

Start practicing the points in this article and when they become a regular habit and feel like second nature, then you can start running. Once or twice a year, I teach an online in depth mastery program on Traditional Chinese Reflexology and if you’re eager to learn more, this is where you can start running :). When I offer the program, I’ll announce the details in my newsletter.

So here are the three key takeaways for you to run with from this article:

  1. Start massaging your Kidney point daily, especially if it is sore when you press on it. You can also practice the other two points in this article, but the Kidney point is what I consider to be the most important point in Chinese Reflexology.
  2. Acknowledge that your high blood pressure is a message from your body. There is a great deal of stress in your present life or from the past that you haven’t yet resolved. You’ve carried it with you for so long that it is literally in your blood now or your blood vessels, so to speak. Take some time for introspection. Chances are you can think of what this is off the top of your head. It’s time to deal with it because your body is saying that you can’t sweep it under the rug any longer.
  3. Sign up for my newsletter if you would like to continue learning more about Chinese Reflexology and the Mind Body connection to heal yourself and transform your life. You can sign up using the form below and you’ll also receive complimentary Chinese Reflexology foot charts and a series of free online lessons.

Article originally appeared on http://www.chinesefootreflexology.com/hypertension/

Want to Improve Your Willpower?

While it makes sense that meditation would be linked to greater willpower, who'd have thought procrastination could also do the trick?

One of the key parts of our culture at Buffer is a focus on self-improvement. We each pick an area to improve on each week and share our daily progress and challenges, making it a social, supportive way to adjust, create or change our habits.

There’s still a lot of work to be done for self-improvement to be effective, though. I’ve been through a bunch of different improvement focuses in the last few months, including positivity, running, reading more and learning French. Each one has been fun to focus on, but it’s hard to keep more than one new habit going at a time—partly because it takes so much willpower.

What willpower is and how it works in the brain

Kelly McGonigal, PhD, and author of The Willpower Instinct says willpower is a response that comes from both the brain and the body.

The willpower response is a reaction to an internal conflict. You want to do one thing, such as smoke a cigarette or supersize your lunch, but know you shouldn’t. Or you know you should do something, like file your taxes or go to the gym, but you’d rather do nothing.

The prefontal cortex (that section of the brain right behind your ) is the part that helps us with things like decision-making and regulating our behavior. Self-control, or willpower, falls under this heading, and thus is taken care of in this part of the brain.

To be effective at controlling our urges and making sound decisions, the prefontal cortex needs to be looked after. That means feeding it with good-quality food so it has enough energy to do its job and getting enough sleep.

How willpower gets depleted throughout the day

McGonigal points out that one of the most replicated findings about willpower is that it seems to be finite—that is, we only have so much and it runs out as we use it.

Trying to control your temper, ignore distractions or refuse seconds all tap the same source of strength.

We can look at willpower like a muscle—it can get exhausted by overuse, but just like our physical muscles, there are some researchers who believe we might be able to strengthen our willpower by training it.

How to increase your willpower

Okay, we know that we only have so much willpower and as we go about our day, stress and normal self-control depletes our resource. Let’s see what options we have for increasing the pool of willpower we have to draw from.

1. Increase your capacity for pressure: Learn how to manage stress

To start with, we need to manage our stress levels, says McGonigal. Being under high levels of stress means that our body’s energy is used up in acting instinctively and making decisions based on short-term outcomes. Our prefrontal cortex loses out in the battle for our energy when high-stress is involved.

McGonigal says that stopping to take a few deep breaths when we feel overwhelmed or tempted can be a great start in managing our stress levels and improving our willpower.

2. Encourage yourself to stick to your plan

To make it even easier, it appears that self-affirmation can even help you to have more self-control when you’re running out, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. A good example of this is the difference between telling yourself "I can’t" and "I don’t." Taking back control of the situation using the phrase "I don’t" has been shown to be more effective at helping you to stick to your plan and break bad habits:

Every time you tell yourself "I can’t," you’re creating a feedback loop that is a reminder of your limitations. This terminology indicates that you’re forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do.

So try telling yourself that you don’t do that bad habit, rather than punishing yourself by saying "I can’t."

3. Get more sleep to help your brain manage energy better

McGonigal also says getting enough sleep makes a big difference to how efficiently our prefrontal cortex works:

Sleep deprivation (even just getting less than six hours a night) is a kind of chronic stress that impairs how the body and brain use energy. The prefrontal cortex is especially hard hit and it loses control over the regions of the brain that create cravings and the stress response.

Luckily, McGonigal also cites studies that have shown we can make this work in our favor by ensuring we get enough sleep:

When the sleep-deprived catch a better night’s sleep, their brain scans no longer show signs of prefrontal cortex impairment.

And if you’re wondering how much sleep is enough, here’s a rough guide: one of the most acclaimed sleep researchers, Daniel Kripke, found in a recent study that "people who sleep between 6.5 hours and 7.5 hours a night, live the longest, are happier and most productive."

4. Meditate (for as little as eight weeks)

Meditation has also been linked to increasing the reserve of willpower we have available, as well as improving attention, focus, stress management, and self-awareness. McGonigal suggests this can even give fast results:

And it doesn’t take a lifetime of practice—brain changes have been observed after eight weeks of brief daily meditation training.

5. Better exercise and nutrition: The most ignored route to higher willpower

Another great way to train the brain, that is often easily ignored or undervalued, yet can make you a lot more resilient to stress, and thus boost willpower, is regular physical exercise. Both relaxing, mindful exercise like yoga and intense physical training can provide these benefits, though McGonigal points out that we’re not sure why this works yet.

As I mentioned earlier, what you feed your body affects how much energy the prefrontal cortex has to work with. This is why nutrition is so important:

Something as simple as eating a more plant-based, less-processed diet makes energy more available to brain and can improve every aspect of willpower.

Not only will exercise and good nutrition improve your willpower, but they’ll make you feel better as well. Exercise in particular is known for making us happy by releasing endorphins:

These endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria.

6. Postpone things for later to gain focus on what’s important now

Postponing something you really shouldn’t have can be effective if you’re trying to break a bad habit. In Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Roy F. Baumeister explains that people who tell themselves "not now, but later," are generally less tormented by the temptation of something they are trying to avoid (his example is eating chocolate cake).

A treat for you, since you waited this long

One last thing. You might have heard of a famous experiment using marshmallows to test kids’ willpower. What happens is a child is left alone in a room with one marshmallow for an undefined period of time. If they can resist eating the marshmallow, they’re rewarded with a second marshmallow at the end of the experiment. If they eat the marshmallow before time is up, they only get that one.

Written by Belle Beth Cooper

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