The 10-second life coachA new series that could transform the way you live
00:58 GMT, 27 August 2012
People who are highly motivated often tense their muscles as they get ready to spring into action. Amazingly, you can also boost willpower by tensing your muscles.
Ris Hung from the National University of Singapore asked groups of participants to do various tasks that involved steely resolve: keep their hands submerged in an ice bucket for as long as possible; consume a healthy, but terrible-tasting vinegar drink; or visit a local cafeteria and buy healthy food rather than sugary snacks.
Each time, half the participants were asked to tighten certain muscles by making their hand into a fist, sitting down and lifting their heels off the floor or holding a pen by tightly weaving it between their fingers.
Willpower tip: Tensing a muscle can help lengthen your resolve
Each of these exercises was designed to make the participants behave as if they were trying hard to exert self-control. The results showed that those carrying out the exercises were more likely to keep their hand in the bucket of ice for longer, down more vinegar or buy healthier food.
Another study, conducted by Ron Friedman and Andrew Elliot from the University of Rochester, involved asking people to tackle difficult anagrams with their arms crossed or resting on their thighs. Those with their arms folded persevered for nearly twice as long.
So next time you feel your willpower draining away, tense a muscle: make a fist, contract your bicep or press your thumb and forefinger together.
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