How to painlessly activate the self control muscle

You’re rushing from one shop to the next, taking care of business.  You emerge from the bank, having stood in a queue  for 35 minutes to pay the plumber a small fortune to restore hot water to your house.  You still need to go to the post office, buy dog food …..

Across the way from the bank is a little shop selling soft serve.  You watch a customer bite into the caramel chocolate shell and then scoop up the creamy white ice cream .   Your mouth fills with saliva. You want one….

Your willpower is melting away ………..

You instinctively clench you fists and speak sternly to yourself – NO !

 Brain squeeze

Does clenching your muscles help ?

Yes, as long as

  • you do it as you face the self-control “challenge” and
  • you really do want to win the challenge i.e. your choice is aligned to your goals.

 This is the finding of a study Journal of Consumer Research.  The researchers put people through a range of self-control dilemmas. 

Not matter what the task ….

  • withstanding pain,
  • consuming unpleasant medicine,
  • attending to disturbing essential information or
  • overcoming tempting foods. 

A strategic muscle squeeze gave them extra self control.

Which muscle ?

It doesn’t really matter – seems to work if you clench your fingers, calves, biceps.  Whatever.

 Why does it work ?

Exactly how the clenched muscle taps into your willpower still awaits elucidation but the body and the mind are intimately connected.

So if there is something you’re struggling to deal with.  Need an especially large dose of self-control to conquer the situation.    Squeeze a muscle or two, preferably one that you know how to handle to avoid setting off a  painful muscle cramp.  The momentary muscle flex could just trigger the willpower switch and facilitate  the much needed  self-control.

From Firm Muscles to Firm Willpower: Understanding the Role of Embodied Cognition in Self-Regulation. Iris W. Hung and Aparna A. Labroo. Journal of Consumer Research, 2010; (in press)

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Further reading 

aggressive face
gut bacteria controlling brain
For big decisions bringing in the bladder to “help” the brain is best  Are you more likely to snap if you are  “hungry” ? How do you plead ? Not guilty – my bacteria made me do it…

The 7 Big Spoons™…. are master switches that turn health on.

balance eicosanoids rein in insulin dial down stress sleep vitamin D microflora think
Balance Eicosanoids Rein in insulin Dial down stress Sleep ! Increase Vit D Culivate microflora Think champion

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