Willpower For Dummies
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Along with good sleep, diet and exercise, one extra ingredient helps boost your willpower: acknowledging your success and celebrating your achievements. Recalling a successful, enriching or happy occasion can kick-start positive thinking, in the same way that remembering one bad outcome can lead to the recall of a cascade of calamities! The focus here is on the positive, however.

Try this exercise that entails recalling a rewarding, uplifting or joyous experience: every day for three successive days, spend 15 minutes writing about an intensely positive or rewarding experience you’ve had.

This exercise can improve your health and happiness by broadening your experience of positive emotions and building your social networks and skills. It also helps you avoid getting trapped in what’s been termed the hedonic treadmill – the constant search for new ways to find happiness and satisfaction.

The broaden-and-build approach, which you can foster by summoning up positive personal experiences, can enable you to build up personal resources that promote well-being and life satisfaction over extended periods of time. This, in turn, cultivates your willpower.

You don’t learn or gain much by avoiding situations or experiences. Psychologists term this behaviour, which tends to be repetitive and stereotypical, safety-seeking behaviour. Approaching situations that entail meeting new people or gaining new experiences, on the other hand, stimulates your brain and can lead to more positive feelings. An active brain and a positive mindset can promote willpower.

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Frank Ryan is a clinical psychologist and cognitive therapist, specialising in cognition and impulse control. He is also the author of Cognitive Therapy For Addiction, published by Wiley.

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