SIMPLE STEPS TO FORGE AN IRON WILL
Try an overture
Working out to music is undeniably motivating. But a U.K. study found that playing read to sweat music before a workout when you're struggling with that "c'mon, skip the gym" voice makes you more likely to follow through.
Lose the lame cliches
Athletes who attain goals are often said to "hit their peak" or "reach new heights." But imagining yourself moving to the top can actually kill motivation, suggests research in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
Sleep for strength
Tired and hungry is no way to get through the day. In a Northern Illinois University study, people with poor sleep habits ran out of self-control faster than deep sleepers did. Solution: Hit the hay around the same time each night, cut off caffeine after 2 p.m., and use your bed for two things sleep and sex.
Play a game
People who play strategy video games tend to do more things that are good for them in the long run, according to a study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. That could be because these games require you to analyze your actions and their consequences and visualize future possibilities.
Don't skip meals
Maintaining self-control is tougher when you have low blood sugar, suggests research from the University of South Dakota. Higher blood sugar levels signal your body to conserve its resources, of which willpower may be one. To keep levels steady, eat a snack of lean protein or complex carbs, such as vegetables or dried fruit.
Clean your mess
A chaotic, disorganized environment can raise stress, weakening willpower. So clean up. In a Cornell study, stressed-out women in a messy kitchen scarfed nearly twice as many cookies as those in a tidy one, reaching for sweets instead of healthier snacks.
Take a different route home
In a Health Psychology study, overweight or obese people were more likely to eat high-calorie snacks if they were near fast food joints than if they weren't. If they were near supermarkets, they were more than twice as likely to eat low-calorie snacks.
Think pleasure, not pain
If your workout feels like a chore, you'll be more likely to overeat afterward. Cornell researchers found that people ate fewer desserts and unhealthy snacks after exercising when the activity was framed as fun instead of work. In another study, marathon runners who saw the sport as exercise instead of fun were more likely to choose candy over cereal bar as a post-run snack, possibly because they felt they deserved a greater reward.
Laugh it off
Cracking up can make you more persistent, according to Australian research. People who watched a comedy clip before attempting a trick ty task kept at it longer than people who first watched a nature video. The researchers believe that amusement makes you want to push harder.
A French review found that regular exercise may help bolster discipline. And a study in Psychology of Sport and Exercise suggests that exercise is especially helpful in people prone to low self-control.
Tell yourself you want it
People who feel the desire to achieve their goals as opposed to feeling an obligation to succeed do better, Canadian research suggest. When you feel compelled to pursue goals, you're more likely to be tempted by obstacles along the way, like that chocolate cake when you're trying to cut back on sugar.
Turn up the AC
People in a Psychological Research study who held a cold object did better on self-control test than those with a warm one. Cold temperatures may be linked alertness.
Set reasonable constraints
Try "pre-commitment" to boost your self-control. In a study from Arizona State and Florida State, researchers promised participants they'd receive 100 M&Ms but first they had to write down how many they wouldn't eat. This commitment helped them eat fewer calories.
Turn off your mind
Swiss researchers found that people who meditated showed stronger self-control than those who didn't meditate. Meditating may help you focus on goals and tune out temptation. Breathe mindfully for 10 minutes a day.