Each year, billions of dollars are spent on the research of the human brain & behavior. The information that comes from these scientifically based research methods are then added to the ever-growing knowledge base of psychology. We are afforded the opportunity to use psychological discoveries to improve our health, increase our longevity, and experience higher levels of life satisfaction. 3 newsworthy studies, that were conducted this past year, can help show us how to increase willpower. By defining your life’s purpose, consciously examining the reality of death, and making sleep a priority, you can be scientifically assured that you will have greater self-control and enhanced decision-making abilities.
The Scientific Study of the Brain & Behavior
It is estimated that each year over $95 Billion is spent on medical research in hopes of discovering new information about humans, more specifically the human brain and human behaviors. Scientists and psychologists at world-renowned universities and top research institutes spend their time conducting studies and finding ways to not only increase the lifespan of humans, but also uncover mental and behavioral processes that allow individuals to experience more happiness, success, and fulfillment.
Today, a large number of scientific studies focus on the correlation between the brain, behavior, and the emotional responses of individuals. A team of leading scientists at one top university may look at the link between Facebook usage and depression, while a team at a different university focuses on finding the optimal diet for individuals of a particular age demographic. Recently, a number of important studies have looked at how individuals can increase their willpower, or self-control.
Having the ability to say ‘No,’ when faced with temptation or getting ourselves to take the actions needed to turn our dreams into reality is challenging for all of us. The box of donuts on the kitchen counter is so enticing that we allow ourselves to bypass our diet rules ‘just this one time.’ Instead of doing the computer work, that will enhance our lives, we decide that we will watch ‘1 episode of Seinfeld.”
Making the right decisions, in our everyday lives, is never easy. When we have to choose between short-term gains (long-term pain) and long-term, more substantial, gains (short-term pain), we usually take the immediate gratification even though we know it is not the most life-affirming option. To increase our self-control and decision-making abilities, which will allow us to experience more happiness and success, we can use scientific data, from 3 recent studies, that shows how to increase willpower levels.
Scientific Research shows How to Increase Willpower
Within the year of 2015, there were numerous psychological studies that made headlines around the world. New research discoveries about emotions, exercise, and relationships gave us insights that we can utilize to improve our lives. 3 noteworthy studies, from 2015, show how humans can increase their willpower, and by understanding these findings, we can increase our self-control and get more out of life. Let’s take a look:
1. ) Find and Cultivate Your Life’s Purpose
It is well-documented that having a definitive life purpose is beneficial for our emotional and physical wellbeing. According to a recent article in Elsevier’s journal of Personality and Individual Differences, a definitive life purpose will also increase our willpower and improve our abilities to resist short-term temptations for long-term satisfaction. Up until this point, there has been a limited amount of research conducted on the correlation between life purpose and behavioral patterns.
When Cornell University professors Anthony Burrow and Nathan Spreng conducted their study, examining the connection between impulsivity and life purpose, they discovered how individuals could enjoy greater decision-making power. The duo collected relevant information about the 503 study participants, ranging from cognitive and emotional wellbeing to levels of assumed life purpose, and asked them questions that were specifically framed using a tool that measures impulsivity, called delay discounting. By asking participants to choose between receiving a smaller amount of money today or a larger amount at a later date, the results indicated that having a life purpose, regardless of personality traits, decreases impulsivity and increases willpower.
2.) Consciously Think about Death
For most us, death is the one reality of life that we like to think about least. If thoughts of dying come into our minds, we typically try to push these ‘negative thoughts’ out of our awareness anyway that we can. Thinking about death, however, may not be as bad as most of us assume. In a recent study, conducted by psychologists Nicholas J. Kelley and Brandon J. Schmeichel, the decision-making abilities of individuals were measured, after they thought about death.
180 undergraduate students at Texas A&M University participated in the study, revolving around terror management theory, and the results indicate that thinking about death greatly increases our appreciation of the present and future. When we are able to value the present and future to a higher degree, we are able to make more life-affirming decision, regardless of our circumstances. According to the findings, “Evidence supports the assumption that thinking about death promotes abstract, high-level mindsets associated with an orientation towards the future.”
3.) Make Sleep a Priority
The hustle and bustle of everyday life often leaves sleep at the bottom of our priority list. It is well documented that sleep improves our cognitive functions in every way, and this truth continues to be strengthened by new evidence every year. A recent review of sleep and self-control literature, examining the correlation between good sleep patterns and willpower, helps verify once again how important sleep is.
A team of Clemson University psychologists and professors, led by June J. Pilcher, set out to determine how sleep pattern affect our decision making abilities. According to the report, “Although sleep could play a major role in self-control, relatively little research has focused on the possible link between the two.” Not suprisingly, the correlation between sleep, decision-making, and willpower was made apparent through the team’s research. The report concludes by saying, “Better managing sleep and self-control capacity could improve worker performance and health. It could also help with such society issues as addictions, excessive gambling, and over-spending.”
Having the willpower to overcome everyday temptations, and act in ways that get us closer to realizing our dreams, is challenging for even the most successful individuals in the world. These 3 studies show how to increase willpower and make life-affirming decision on a daily basis. By taking the time to define and cultivate a definitive life purpose, our ability to act in the most beneficial ways will become greatly enhanced. Reminding ourselves of the reality of death can motivation us to work towards the future in a dynamic, appreciative, and enthusiastic way. Finally, by making sleep a priority we can greatly increase our self-control, as well as numerous other mental and physical processes.