Lockdown? Build Strong Mind Muscles

Only a few weeks back, half of us did not know the meaning of “Quarantine” or “Lockdown” and now it’s all we hear. Who thought our lifestyle will change completely, and we must be inside 24*7? During this tough time, some people can survive better than others. Are they extra-ordinary OR do they have extra luxuries OR are they filthy rich?

The one thing they have in common is – “STRONG WILLPOWER”. 

The good news is that we all can strengthen our willpower. They are like normal muscles; the more you use them, the stronger they get. I am sure you must have heard the story of Manjhi, who moved a mountain with strong will power. There are many more stories like this to inspire us.

People with ‘strong mind muscles’ can:

  • Get more done
  • Achieve greater success
  • Go beyond their abilities
  • Stand out from the crowd

Some research based techniques listed below will not only help you survive the quarantine but will make you more focused and productive for the rest of your life! 

1.      10 minutes of meditation

From the time, we wake up and go to sleep, our conscious and subconscious minds make decisions. In these decisions or choices, our willpower is being tested consistently. E.g. Eating healthy or eating junk food, sleeping late in the morning or waking up early, exercising daily, etc. are the hard choices, which consume our will power. The good news is that using one most effective way, our brains can be trained for more self-regulation. That’s right, meditation (Ref 1). Now there can be many ways to meditate but the simplest is the following: 

•          Sit still and stay put. Turn your attention to your breath. Notice how it feels to breathe and how the mind wanders. Gradually you will be able to stay focused on your breath for a longer time with less thoughts wandering across your mind.

2.      Read self-improvement books

Here is a thought, ‘for less than the price of dinner at a restaurant, you can get great insights and information from some of the greatest minds in the world?’

Do you know what is common in these leaders – 

  • Bill Gates (Founder of Microsoft), 
  • Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft), 
  • Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook),
  • Indra Nooyi (Chairwoman of PepsiCo)

Money, of course, but all of them also believe in reading. Every day they spend a lot of time reading books. Despite what they have achieved, they have the hunger to learn more. Always remember, “Leaders are Readers”.

Here are a few books that will help you with your quest to strengthen your will power- 

•          Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, 

•          The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, And What You Can Do About It

•          Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

All these books suggest that we are not forever bound to our poor habits and that we can change and increase our willpower in the process.

3.      Use your opposite hand

You might be shocked to discover that there are advantages to utilizing your non-dominant hand – I was! Utilising your contrary hand will fortify neural associations in your brain, and even create new ones. It’s like how physical exercise improves your body’s functioning and grows muscles (Ref 2). 

Now, what can I do with my left hand – 

•          Brush my teeth

•          Open bottle cap

•          Scoop whey protein powder

•          Wash my clothes

•          Clean utensils

•          Use a computer mouse

•          Put butter on toast

•          Eat dinner         

4.      Be mindful of automatic decisions

To succeed at self-control, you need to know how you fail” – Dr. McGonigal

Avoid too many decisions (decision fatigue), as this will drain your willpower (Ref 4)Mark Zuckerberg intentionally wears a similar outfit every day, so he has fewer choices to make in the first part of the day. It’s his way of reducing the decisions he has to make and protect willpower fo the rest of the day. A way to implement this for you can be if you have a big event planned for the day, make your lunch early, pick your outfit, and so on.

Make important decisions early in the morning when your willpower is at the highest level. Willpower may be lower when you are hungry or have low blood glucose levels (Ref 3). We should plan our day by making a healthy lunch in the morning or keep healthy snacks on hand.

5. Get a good night’s sleep

Getting enough rest has a major effect on how proficiently our prefrontal cortex works. Lack of sleep (under six hours every night) is a sort of everlasting pressure that weakens how the body and mind use energy. The prefrontal cortex is particularly hard hit and it loses authority over the districts of the brain that create desires and the stress response (6).

  • Sleep can improve your memory
  • Sleep helps your body to fight back
  • Sleep helps reduce stress
  • Sleep puts you in a better mood

Luckily, some studies have shown we can make this work in our favor by ensuring we get enough sleep (Ref 7). And if you’re wondering how much sleep is enough, here’s a rough guide: In a study, researchers found that “people who sleep between 7 hours and 8.5 hours a night, live the longest, are happier and most productive” (Ref 8).

6.      “What the Hell” Effect

The ‘What the Hell’ effect is dangerous for goals. It’s when good intentions fail, and resolutions fall by the wayside. This effect happens when we start to fail on our goals and our mind muscles become weak and so we begin to feel like a failure.

As a failure, we think, “Oh, what the hell!? I might as well give in…” This happens because the moment we slip on a goal we feel guilty and self-blame. This self-disgrace triggers your body to need a dopamine hit (the delight concoction) so it can feel better (Ref 9). This leads you to things like sweet foods like pastry, taking a cigarette break, mindlessly scroll Facebook, etc.

The answer to coming out of this: Self-compassion.

Shockingly, when individuals excuse themselves for coming up short occasionally, the more rapidly they refocus. People who stumble in guilt tended to spiral into a cycle of indulgence and shame, losing their grip on self-control (Ref 10).

Next time you slip up, let it go. Mark it as a one-time event and move on.

7.      Encourage yourself to stick to your plan

Apparently self- encouragement can give you more self-control when it is most required. A genuine case of this is simply the distinction between telling yourself “I can’t..” and “I don’t..”. Every time you tell yourself, “I can’t”, you are putting extra pressure on your willpower, by reminding yourself of your restrictions.

This terminology indicates that you’re forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do.

Instead, tell yourself that you are not that person and “you don’t” do those things, restrain yourself from “you can’t”. E.g. You are not a smoker and you don’t smoke, rather than saying you can’t smoke. Change your mental script.

8.     exercise and Nutrition

Another incredible method to train the brain, that is underestimated, is physical exercise. Both relaxing as well as mindful exercise can provide multitude of benefits to the brain too like stronger will power, better response to stress.

Finally, your brain consumes more energy in comparison to other organs (Ref 11). Now, what you feed to your body decides, with how much strength your brain will work. Food is a kind of fuel for the brain. With a good quality fuel, the brain will work with great mileage. 

Not only will exercise and great nourishment improve your self-discipline, they will also make you feel better. Exercise does that by discharging endorphins (Ref 12). These endorphins will in general limit the uneasiness of activity, obstruct the sentiment of torment and are even connected with a sentiment of rapture (Ref 13).

Conclusion

It is through will power only, that a middle-class boy became the God of Cricket. It is because of strong mindset only that an Indian girl, who was thrown out of a train and lost her left leg, went on to climb Mount Everest. These changes did not happen in one day, behind this is sheer hard work, strong mind and dedicated will power

Don’t try to incorporate all the techniques altogether and change everything in one day, the house is not built in one day, it is built brick by brick. There is great saying that reflects this thought: “It won’t happen in one day, but one day it will happen”

So, to conclude this, my friends, be someone, with whom if any old friend meets after a year, he/she should say that “you have completely transformed”. This can happen with one small improvement every single day. Imagine a 1% improvement a day, can end up 365% after a year. And where you can reach after 10 years.

About the Author: Anil Malik is an INFS scholar and has completed his Foundation and Expert certification from INFS (Institute of Nutrition and Fitness Sciences). He has been associated with the health and fitness industry for more than 2 years. There are a lot of myths about health and fitness, which people are following without knowing the reason. Anil wants to share his learning and knowledge to guide people in the right direction. 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4176767/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4903896/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18453466
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18444745
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18444745
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656292/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6143346/
  8. Carskadon MA, Dement WC. Normal human sleep: An overview. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders; 2005. pp. 13–23. [Google Scholar]
  9. https://www.jneurosci.org/content/24/11/2825
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6664080/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC124895/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6091217
  13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2019.02.022

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