The start of a New Year inspires us to make changes in our lives, to act on something we’ve always wanted and to help our dreams reach fruition. These aspirations inspire and energize, but often times, they simply don’t manifest completely. For whatever reason, many people continue to struggle with issues of willpower and self-control, especially surrounding diet and lifestyle. This is particularly evident in the skyrocketing health epidemics that are mainly related to lifestyle issues: metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic disorders.
But whether your aim next year is to eat more vegetables, get more exercise or complete a huge project, maintaining strong willpower, motivation and self-discipline are essential. Here are a few ways to support these critical keys to success.
New Year’s Checklist
1) Make the goal YOUR Goal. The messages we receive from our families, culture and society constantly tell us that we can do better, have more, be happier, etc. As a result, our goals are often set on heights that we may not even truly desire. Search inside yourself to determine what is most important to you. What are you deeply committed to? What drives your passion? Happiness and health go hand-in-hand, so decide what makes you feel truly happy and fulfilled and you’re much more likely to stick with it.
2) Reduce Stress. Chronic stress and anxiety can zap energy and motivation. Our willpower crumbles under stress, and we often fall back into old, unhealthy patterns during periods of heightened anxiety. So take some time to center yourself and practice healthy stress-relief measures. Interestingly, studies on mindful meditation show that meditation not only reduces stress and anxiety better than antidepressants, but also strengthens a part of the brain associated with self-control.
3) Get it done early in the day. Research shows that our willpower only tends to last so long during the day before it sputters, like a car running out of fuel. Early in the morning is when it’s strongest. By evening, most people have lost much of their self-control to the lure of the dessert platter. So whatever your goals may be, they’re easier to achieve if you work on them earlier in the day and don’t wait until the last minute.
4) Stock up on healthy snacks. This one is important. Even if you’re trying to avoid gaining weight, small, high-energy snacks with lean protein, complex carbs and healthy fats are your ticket to success. It is estimated that practicing willpower and self-discipline can take up the biggest portion of your brain’s energy reserves. So if you’re running on empty or you experience a drop in blood sugar levels, your vigor isn’t the only thing that gets zapped — your willpower and motivation vanish as well. Furthermore, studies have shown a direct link between low blood sugar and reduced willpower.By eating frequent, small, healthy snacks, you can stabilize your glucose and motivation levels.
5) Start small and don’t give up. By making smaller goals first, and gradually building to bigger achievements, you lower the risk of setting yourself up for failure. Some studies suggest that people do better with self-control when their goals are gradually scaled upward. Willpower is like a muscle that needs to be exercised. With practice, confidence as well as motivation can build. And if you stray from your path, don’t give up! You can always start again. It’s essential to be kind and patient with yourself and acknowledge the importance of your efforts.
6) Bring a Friend. By telling your goals to a trusted person, and even taking part in sharing the efforts or working together toward the same objective, you can benefit from “power in numbers.” The support you can provide each other helps bolster your willpower and motivation to help you see things through to completion and beyond. Plus, it can be fun!
The quiet of the winter season offers time for introspection and contemplation. It you take a moment to center yourself, look inside yourself and decide what is most important to you, you’re already on the way to realizing your dreams. Above all else, let your inner love and compassion for yourself and others cultivate from within, and see your motivation and happiness expand throughout the New Year and beyond.
Best wishes for a New Year filled with peace and healing!
Dr. Isaac Eliaz
For more health and wellness information, visit www.dreliaz.org.