Fun and Easy Ways to Develop your Willpower Muscle

What is will power? Will power is the ability to delay gratification and choose long-term rewards over short term rewards

Some easy examples for athletes:

- Choosing to do your homework before watching TV, so that you are focused and learn more and can get better grades (or skipping TV altogether!)

- Choosing to delay the gratification of finishing your workout before you're all done, and instead finishing the whole thing, will lead you to get stronger.

- Delaying the gratification of going to play video games and instead practicing your craft (shooting hockey pucks / working on your lacrosse stick skills) will lead to better success on your playing field of choice.

- Delaying the gratification of picking up a king sized snickers bar at a gas station after school will lead to you eating better at home, which over the long term is better for your health.

So, why do you want to develop the ability to delay gratification? In short - you will succeed in more endeavors in your life.

This fact is based off of some really quite interesting research you can read about here.

The tough thing about will power is that is comes and goes. It is kind of like a muscle.

Most people's will power is strongest when they are well rested, well fed, and in a comfortable environment. But things are not always like that.

Luckily, like a muscle, you can do some small fun activities to help grow your will power muscle.

Below are some little challenges you can do in your day to day to help you develop a stronger willpower muscle, so that you can be prepared, strong, and ready to go when the time comes.

By the way if you want to read more about willpower and how it is effected, you can read more on this website.

Ok, here we go:

Challenge #1 - Immediate Wake Up Push Ups

This challenge is simple. Immediately upon waking up for the day, do as many push ups as you can.

This does three things to your brain:

1.) You work your willpower muscle, causing you to overcome the little feeling in the back of your head that says "let's go back to sleep." This can be called the IG Monster (instant gratification monster) and you can use your willpower muscle to tame it.

2.) Once you are done, you will be AWAKE. Physiologically, exercise is great for your brain in that it improves almost everything, but we've found that a main effect is that you get the blood flowing and you will be ready to attack the day.

3.) You will have accomplished something. This will give you a feeling of momentum that you can use as you go off to school, head to the gym, or get ready for the game that day. You're already on a roll (you did your push ups), and that feeling of accomplishment will increase your confidence.

Challenge #2 - Cold Showers

Everyone likes warm showers. Hot water feels great! We have nothing against hot water.

But cold water......for some reason we do not like cold water.

This challenge is especially readily available to us in Minnesota, as our cold water gets cold.

So, here is how it works.

1.) Begin with ending your hot shower with a cold blast.

Do this after soaping off and getting clean. You can do it for as little as 2 seconds. Just overcome the instant reward of shutting the shower off.

2.) Gradually add more cold water time

Start to get in to a hot shower, then make the water cold as you go to do your shampoo. Then, before your shampoo when you're using your soap or cleaning your face. Slowly build it up.

3.) Jump in to the cold shower

This is the biggest and hardest step, as you go from being nice and dry to being cold - and you can't jump out! You still need to get clean!

For one, this is a big transition for most people who have never on purpose taken a cold shower. So start slow.

Another thing you need to know is the health benefits of cold water.

You can check out this link to learn more, but essentially it boils down to a few things:

- Cold showers wake up up, as all the blood in your body goes to your vital organs, thus pumping up your system (and brain)

- Cold showers make you take deep breaths, thus oxygenating your system - another way to get your body ready to go

- Cold showers boost your immune system by reducing inflammation.

So, in essence, it's good for your body and your willpower muscle. Woohoo!


For the younger readers who do not yet have cell phones, you can substitute this with doing any screen time for 30 minutes after you have woken up (or longer!)

Phones these days are attached to our hands like we are cyborgs.

Not using your phone when you wake up does a few things.

For one, your brain does not immediately spin into crazy mode via social media or the news. Both of these services make adult brains spin wildly, and the effects for teens and young people must be way worse.

It will increase your focus in the beginning of the day. Use this time to do your push ups, take your cold shower, and think about something you want to do that day. Maybe that's nailing a presentation at school or practice shooting hockey pucks.

Another benefit is that it will reduce your dependence on your phone. Would recommend at some point during quarantine going a full day without looking at your phone. You are at home and your parents know where you are anyway, so give this a try.

Lastly - and back to the theme - it will work your willpower muscle. Your brain will be used to waking up and checking social media or message right away as your brain shoots off a chemical called dopamine every time you get messages or likes, and that makes you feel good. But it happens quick then goes away, and then you feel worse (Ever check all your apps multiple times in a row....then do it again? This is why).

By flexing your willpower muscle early in the day and not looking at your phone, you can get a whole host of benefits. And don't worry, the phone will be there when you come back!


And that is it! One helpful tip is that you can do all 3 of the above in a row, and your willpower muscle will get even stronger.

Comment and let us know how it goes!

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