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Willpower and New Year Resolutions

As 2015 was ushered in, many of us have seen it as a chance to take steps towards leading a happier and healthier life. It might be losing weight, cutting back on our alcohol intake, leaving the office earlier or spending more time with family. The majority of us want to take these steps to feel better but in reality people don't always achieve these goals. Willpower is tested every day, whether it is hitting the snooze button rather than taking your early morning run or choosing an apple over a cupcake at lunchtime. The decisions that lead to a healthier life are often difficult - many people cite not having enough willpower as the top reason for being unable to make healthy lifestyle changes. Willpower is the ability to delay gratification, resisting short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals. One reason adopting healthy behaviors may be so difficult is that resisting temptation can take a mental toll. In fact, some experts liken willpower to a muscle that can get fatigued from overuse. The good news is that, like a muscle, willpower can be strengthened to help achieve lifestyle-related goals, such as eating healthy or losing weight. If you feel that a lack of willpower is holding you back from achieving healthy goals, here are some helpful techniques from a recent APA article that can help you strengthen your self-control.

  • Focus on one goal at a time: Psychologists have found that it is more effective to focus on a single, clear goal rather than attacking a list of goals at once. Succeeding at the first goal will free up your willpower so it can then be devoted to the next goal. Focus on changing one health habit first whether it’s exercising more during the week or eating smaller food portions daily.

  • Monitor your behavior toward your goal: Don’t let a slip-up take you off track. Make a reasonable plan to meet your goal and recommit each day to making progress toward that goal. If weight loss or healthy eating is your aim, track what you eat. Research shows that people who track their daily food intake are more likely to succeed at weight loss.

  • Seek support: Research shows that having support systems can help you reach your goals. Surround yourself with people you trust and who you know will be supportive of your goals and willing to help you succeed.

How a Psychologist Can Help If you need help building your willpower, consult with a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional. He or she can help you identify problem areas and then develop an action plan for changing them. Practicing psychologists use a variety of evidence-based treatments — most commonly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and psychotherapy — to help people improve their lives. Psychologists, on average, spend seven years in education and training; moreover, psychologists are required to take continuing education to maintain their professional standing. At Incorporate Psychology we work with adults of all ages, providing qualified support and programs to help people on their journey to well being. Give us a call to find out more about how we can help and what our sessions involve. Medicare and health fund rebates are available. Phone (07) 3852 2441 or email your enquiry to Resources

  • What You Need to Know about Willpower: The Psychological Science of Self-Control (APA)

  • APA's Stress in America Survey

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