Tag Archives: willpower

3 steps to break a habit

Willpower logo trimmedToday is No Smoking day and there will be a bunch of you that want to break the habit of smoking.

So here are my top 3 steps for breaking a habit.

Firstly, a little science around habits.

When you do something that is familiar to your brain it releases a drug called Dopamine. This drug makes you feel better. It makes you do the thing you are about to do. If you stop doing the thing, and your brain doesn’t recognise your thoughts, you don’t get Dopamine. You go cold turkey.

This is why breaking a habit is uncomfortable.

But you can train your brain in the same way as you can train any muscle in your body. You can increase your willpower. And by increasing your willpower you have the strength to endure the short period where you are going cold turkey from dopamine.

Imagine you start your day with a bucket of willpower points. As you go through the day you spend your points. By the end of the day the bucket is empty, so you have no more willpower points to spend. Training your brain is about starting the day with a bigger bucket of willpower points.

So how do you train your brain to have more willpower?

1. Do the same thing differently.

If you are smoking, smoke with the opposite hand. Or smoke a different brand. Or allow yourself to have a cigarette but take one puff and then put it down. Count to 10 and take another puff. Put it down. This is you taking control of something that is normally out of control. Do a little of something different every day. Like with any training, the more you do, the stronger you get. Increase the time to 20 seconds. Hold the cigarette in the opposite hand and with different fingers.

2. Create a long term idealistic goal rather than a shorter term fixed goal.

Decide that in a years time you want to be a non-smoker. This means that even if you have a cigarette today, you haven’t blown your goal. You have something to aim for. Recognise each time you choose not to smoke as a step towards your goal and each time you choose to smoke as a pause. This way there is no failure. You give yourself credit for what you achieve instead of beating yourself up for failure. Consider too, if you put something off until tomorrow, ask “How would the me tomorrow feel about the me today stealing my time?”

3. Just breathe.

So many studies now show that meditation is a powerful tool both for the mind and body. It’s also really good for boosting self-control and willpower. Set a timer for 1 minute every day. In that minute spend time just focussing on your breathing. Thoughts will come into your head and distract you. Take each thought and imagine it disappearing just as quickly as it arrives. You can dissolve it, see it float down a river, imagine it flying away. Any way that comes to mind. You might even find it helps to label the different thoughts – negative, future, to-do, etc. You can change their colour or their sound. But each time you are distracted by a thought, bring your attention back to your breathing after banishing it.

If you need a little help with these steps, you can download the Willpower Workout from the appstore. Search “TICIWillpower” or click on the link below (Apple devices only)

iPhone-5 (3)

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Need a boost?

iPhone-5 (3)So October is the month for giving up stuff it seems.

Stoptober for smoking

Shredtober for getting fit

Sober for October for giving up alcohol.

And there are probably more things.

So are you doing any of these? How are you getting on now October is nearly over.

It can be tough to stick to something for any length of time. You can start off with the best intentions but the longer you stick at it, the harder it can be. And then one day you are tired or stressed and you find you just don’t have the energy.

That’s because we all have a daily allocation of willpower and once you’ve used up all your points you are scuppered!

But never fear! For less than a latte you can buy my Willpower Workout** which will give you a bigger daily allocation meaning you don’t run out of those precious points so quickly!

So if you find that you prefer to scrub out the kitchen cabinets with a toothbrush instead of doing that important paperwork, or find that your very important running t-shirt is in the wash meaning you can’t possibly go out for a run, then why not give the Willpower Workout a try?

For just £1.49 it’s worth a try isn’t it?

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**Apple devices only for now

Half way through!

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That’s it. 

We are half way through the month where all the campaigns are in place to get us to give something up either for our health or to raise money for charity.

  • Stoptober to stop smoking
  • Sober for October to give up drink for charity

or just giving up other stuff like chocolate etc. Many people all over the place going for it to give something up.

And it’s tough.

Did you realise willpower is a finite resource?

There is a pot that sits in your pre-frontal cortex. That’s the bit of the brain that distinguishes us from animals. It’s the bit that allows us to override primitive desires and exert free choice and self-control.

But the overriding drive is to survive…this comes from our limibic system. This is the subconscious part that doesn’t take time to think. It just acts.

And the thing is, all day everyday there is a battle going on between conscious rational thought and subconscious primitive emotional survival thought.

And conscious thought – the prefrontal cortex – is the new kid on the block. It doesn’t have the status. It often loses out to primitive drives.

The pre-frontal cortex is like the radio on the car. If the battery on the car is running low, the radio is a non-critical system and should be shut off

So if you are running low on energy; if you are tired; if you haven’t had enough of the right food to eat, or if you have spent all the willpower points in the pot at the start of the day through some herculean effort of self control (like going to the gym or not eating that bar of chocolate that was speaking to you) then the pre-frontal cortex is effectively ignored. Turned off. It has no role in your day. Everything is down to surviving. To giving in to your basic instincts to survive.

Sounds a bit hopeless doesn’t it?

But the good news is that you can do stuff to train your self-control in the same way as an athlete trains their body. And through training it you can have a bigger pot of willpower to draw on. So it becomes easier for you to win that constant battle. It becomes easier for you to make a choice.

How to get more self-control?

  • Spend 5 minutes every day meditating. Just focussing on your breathing and nothing else.
  • Identify the thing that is your biggest challenge to self control. Call it out. Be aware of it. Notice when the challenge is hardest to resist and do something to change when you do it. If you eat biscuits with a cup of tea and want to give up biscuits then decide not to eat biscuits with the tea but 1 hour later.
  • Exert a small amount of self control over that challenge. So for example if it smoking…smoke with the opposite hand next time. You may be still smoking but you are doing it on your terms and that is exerting self control.
  • Exercise. Doing any exercise increases the energy to your pre-frontal cortex which improves your self-control

I have developed a special willpower boosting download which lasts about 7 minutes and is on an MP3 file so can be put on any device. Listening to this download each day will train up your willpower and make it easier for you to choose to do what you want…to use your pre-frontal cortex.

If you are interested in this download email dawn@thinkitchangeit.com saying what you are trying to stop doing and I will send you the link and some basic instructions on using it.

Stoptober , willpower, volunteers

I need volunteers who want to give up smoking to try a new download I have developed which boosts self-control and willpower.

Let me explain why I think this download will work

I’ve just read brilliant book by Kelly McGonigal called “Maximum Willpower”

Let me summarise what I have learnt so far (this is her take on things blended with what I know):

There is a battle going on in our heads at all times between the subconscious primitive drivers and the rational thought of the prefrontal cortex…the prefrontal cortex was the last part of the brain to develop in human evolution and it’s one of the key things that separates us from animals.

This part of the brain,let’s call it conscious thought, is a behaviour regulator. It often overrides the primitive drives initiated by our subconscious.

So for example, without the prefrontal cortex we would eat anything and everything that was available – to the point of making ourselves sick. We wouldn’t store food when we’d had enough. We also would not be so interested in wearing clothes and would not be so restrained about satisfying our sexual urges.

The pre-frontal cortex helps us be human.

However, it has an awkward relationship with our subconscious. The drive to survive is the strongest part of us. It can’t afford to be apply reason and take time to make decisions. It has to be instantaneous and based on ‘gut instinct’….feel first think later. It is emotional and physiological…with each instinctive survival response there is both an emotional response and a physiological response that happens far quicker than our conscious brain can respond.

We also know that the subconscious is the one in charge for up to 90% of the day.

With all that in mind you might think it’s some kind of miracle that we don’t spend all day eating until we are sick and satisfying all our primitive urges.

But we don’t…so what is it that makes the difference?

Well it’s all about willpower and self-control. At the end of the day, the subconscious can always trigger off a response but we have a choice to override that with rational conscious thought.

The good news is you can train yourself to make your self-control as effective as possible.

The download I’ve developed guides you through improving and using your self control using some simple tricks.

If you are a smoker that wants to stop and you want to volunteer to try it out in these early stages please email dawn@thinkitchangeit.com