Did you know that it is actually scientifically possible to measure your capacity for self control? It doesn’t even require some sort of Doctor Kevorkian procedure of opening up your cranium or taking some master-minded psychological test. In fact, it involves the heart, which metaphorically is a pretty lovable concept.
Now, thanks to extensive research and experiments conducted off of understanding the way our body can respond to stress, researchers have discovered that during moments where we require self-control, our heart rate variability (HRV), or the normal variation in the time interval between heart beats, goes up when our resistance to temptation goes up. Contrarily of course, if our heart rate variability (think heart rate a little faster and thus more rhythmic) goes down, so does our willpower to resist.
So how do we work to increase our HRV, then? Answers, please! During stressful situations, our primitive fight or flight response kicks in, and your body gears up, ready to take action by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. In the days of the Stone Age, this would be great for out maneuvering a surprise incident with a python; but, in modern times our temptations illicit the same fight or flight response and actually makes us more impulsive and likely to give in by decreasing HRV. Luckily, we also have the pause-and-plan response, labeled as such by psychologist Suzanne Segerstrom. This has the complete opposite effect on our body than the fight-or-flight response by lowering heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, increasing HRV, and allowing a sense of calm and relaxation to come over us.
How to Strengthen Your Pause & Plan REsponse
Fall Off, Get back on
Avoid the crazy failure cycle by allowing time to reflect on what caused the failure in the first place and then have the self-love and determination to pick yourself back up, fix it, and keep it movin'.
Diamond, D. (2013, January 02). Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year's Resolutions. Here's How They Do It. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/#6389e3d3596b
McGonigal, K. (2013). The willpower instinct: how self-control works, why it matters, and what you can do to get more of it. New York: Avery.