New York Times
April 2, 2008
Tighten Your Belt, Strengthen Your Mind
By SANDRA AAMODT and SAM WANG
DECLINING house prices, rising job layoffs, skyrocketing oil costs and a
major credit crunch have brought consumer confidence to its lowest point in
five years. With a relatively long recession looking increasingly likely,
many American families may be planning to tighten their belts.
Interestingly, restraining our consumer spending, in the short term, may
cause us to actually loosen the belts around our waists. What’s the
connection? The brain has a limited capacity for self-regulation, so
exerting willpower in one area often leads to backsliding in others. The
good news, however, is that practice increases willpower capacity, so that
in the long run, buying less now may improve our ability to achieve future
goals — like losing those 10 pounds we gained when we weren’t out shopping.
The brain’s store of willpower is depleted when people control their
thoughts, feelings or impulses, or when they modify their behavior in
pursuit of goals. Psychologist Roy Baumeister and others have found that
people who successfully accomplish one task requiring self-control are less
persistent on a second, seemingly unrelated task.
In one pioneering study, some people were asked to eat radishes while others
received freshly baked chocolate chip cookies before trying to solve an
impossible puzzle. The radish-eaters abandoned the puzzle in eight minutes
on average, working less than half as long as people who got cookies or
those who were excused from eating radishes. Similarly, people who were
asked to circle every “e” on a page of text then showed less persistence in
watching a video of an unchanging table and wall.
Other activities that deplete willpower include resisting food or drink,
suppressing emotional responses, restraining aggressive or sexual impulses,
taking exams and trying to impress someone. Task persistence is also reduced
when people are stressed or tired from exertion or lack of sleep.
What limits willpower? Some have suggested that it is blood sugar, which
brain cells use as their main energy source and cannot do without for even a
few minutes. Most cognitive functions are unaffected by minor blood sugar
fluctuations over the course of a day, but planning and self-control are
sensitive to such small changes. Exerting self-control lowers blood sugar,
which reduces the capacity for further self-control. People who drink a
glass of lemonade between completing one task requiring self-control and
beginning a second one perform equally well on both tasks, while people who
drink sugarless diet lemonade make more errors on the second task than on
the first. Foods that persistently elevate blood sugar, like those
containing protein or complex carbohydrates, might enhance willpower for
In the short term, you should spend your limited willpower budget wisely.
For example, if you do not want to drink too much at a party, then on the
way to the festivities, you should not deplete your willpower by window
shopping for items you cannot afford. Taking an alternative route to avoid
passing the store would be a better strategy.
On the other hand, if you need to study for a big exam, it might be smart to
let the housecleaning slide to conserve your willpower for the more
important job. Similarly, it can be counterproductive to work toward
multiple goals at the same time if your willpower cannot cover all the
efforts that are required. Concentrating your effort on one or at most a few
goals at a time increases the odds of success.
Focusing on success is important because willpower can grow in the long
term. Like a muscle, willpower seems to become stronger with use. The idea
of exercising willpower is seen in military boot camp, where recruits are
trained to overcome one challenge after another.
In psychological studies, even something as simple as using your nondominant
hand to brush your teeth for two weeks can increase willpower capacity.
People who stick to an exercise program for two months report reducing their
impulsive spending, junk food intake, alcohol use and smoking. They also
study more, watch less television and do more housework. Other forms of
willpower training, like money-management classes, work as well.
No one knows why willpower can grow with practice but it must reflect some
biological change in the brain. Perhaps neurons in the frontal cortex, which
is responsible for planning behavior, or in the anterior cingulate cortex,
which is associated with cognitive control, use blood sugar more efficiently
after repeated challenges. Or maybe one of the chemical messengers that
neurons use to communicate with one another is produced in larger quantities
after it has been used up repeatedly, thereby improving the brain’s
Whatever the explanation, consistently doing any activity that requires
self-control seems to increase willpower — and the ability to resist
impulses and delay gratification is highly associated with success in life.
Sandra Aamodt, the editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience, and Sam Wang, an
associate professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton, are
the authors of “Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never
Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life.”
Self-Control and Willpower
New York Times
How do I get myself to sit and sort out all my finances and then carry on multi tasking with practcal construction tasks plus ordering goods etc as a single person on his lonesome and keep doing it every day whilst minimising my time on JWD?
And how do I get myslef to become machine like and self sustaining and self motivating to perform activities I am capable of but have become dysfunctional at all within a short time scale which has become a criticl elememt to my circumstances?
Dear Mr. Crusoe,
A friend just e-mailed me the above; I share your dilemma as to multi-tasking (no can do) and self-motivation (hyper-drive to sloth-in-cloth inside o' three seconds flat). Learning to go with the flow in all matters and not stressing out over my involvement with JWD is helpful. I choose (I've so little choice in most matters) not to worry to the extent I once did. Cannot not worry totally - it's genetic, I think.
Your keenly verbalized meanderings are the unuttered musings of my own highly chaotic experience. I'm grateful that you put into words so much of what I think and feel ... it helps me sort it all out.
If this is true (and there is a decent chance that it has some good validity, since I myself have found it easier to work on one problem at a time instead of working on everything at once), then people should not be going out in field circus at all. Nor should they be wasting willpower by going to the boasting sessions.
And, it also means that the Filthful and Disgraceful Slavebugger is asking too much out of people. They are being asked to kill their sex drive, and use it to go out in a non-satisfying activity like field circus. While in field circus, they are banned from having the least little bit of fun. Then they are supposed to stay away from any music except for the 225 pxxx poor excuses of "music" that they have created. Every activity except the Big Five (studying the NWT with Witchtower littera-trash, substituting their delusion for reality, praying for Jehovah's things, going to boasting sessions, and field circus) is censored. Dress is regulated too tightly.
Additionally, they are kept poor. No college and no decent jobs means no money (and whatever money they do get goes to the Worldwide Pedophile Defense Fund). They are not supposed to enjoy work, nor are they to seek entertainment. And it will get worse when the "valueless things" study hits. Anything that is enjoyable is now a "valueless thing". Entertainment is all but banned with that article, and will for sure be when the hounder-hounders start interpreting it as meaning that all fun and relaxation is bad.
I hope this willpower drain results in people doing apostasy.
Self-control and willpower should reasonably be implemented and monitored by the individual, who naturally wants to do something with his life and stay out of trouble. Apart from the basic laws that keep society balanced and safe for the citizenry, the tyrannical micro-management of an underling's life by a self-proclaimed agent of Deity is unacceptable. I want to make my own mistakes - for better or for worse - and learn from them, hoping, in the process of living and learning, that my mistakes will not harm others.
I do not require a religious entity's intercession with Deity on my behalf, thank you very much.
Your points, WTW, are well made.
Excellent points WTW and Coco,
...and most strikingly, in ones trial and errors of life, one wishes to achieve greater happiness as part of the whole process rather than what the WT Vampire does which is drain it away forever from your lifeblood, only letting you function on their terms!
Little did I realise how much evil intent they inject into people with their unholy waters of baptism they have distilled from the world as concentrated lovelessness!
Good stuff. It fits my new spiritual path 200%.