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How meditation develops your willpower

Tags: stress, antiaging

Willpower is described as the trait of resolutely controlling your own behavior, or self-control. It also applies to the resolve to achieve a goal.

Meditation is one of the most powerful methods to strengthen your resolve, develop self-control and maintain focus on your goal.

Simply sitting still for an extended period of time requires willpower. It’s tempting to give in to the urge to get up, even just fidget!

Eventually your physical discomfort subsides, but then you become acutely aware of the mental chatter, and instead of focusing on the breath like you want, you find yourself hopping on board every random thought that comes your way. It takes a great deal of willpower to bring your focus back to nothing but the breath. In time, you develop the willpower to sit still and focus.

Another key element of strong willpower is the ability to stay present. If you are thinking ahead to indulge in a craving, for example, you are not present; you are not thinking about what you are doing right now. Meditation teaches you to return your focus to the present.

Whether you are re-focusing on your breath during meditation, or re-focusing on an activity outside of meditation, the important thing is that you are re-directing your thoughts away from the temptation.

A strong ability to focus on a goal is another skill developed by meditating. If you can maintain focus on a goal and not give in to temptations to stop, or to engage in a self-defeating activity, you will boost your self-confidence, motivation and willpower.

During meditation, you deliberately bring your focus back every time your attention wanders. The self-discipline that this builds is extremely beneficial in all areas of your life.

Kelly McGonical, Ph.D. of Stanford University states, “Practicing mindfulness meditation for a few minutes each day can actually boost willpower by building up gray matter in areas of the brain that regulate emotions and govern decision making.

Paying attention to what's happening in the moment, what's going on in your body, your mind, and all around you, can make it easier to tune in to choices you make.”

Meditation actually creates physical changes in the brain in as little as eight weeks, according to many studies including one conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers. The study found that an 8-week mindfulness meditation program made measurable changes in the gray matter of brain areas associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.

Test your willpower now - for two minutes, pick a point of focus wherever you are sitting; set a timer for two minutes, and do not, for any reason, allow your focus to stray. Don’t move a muscle; and don’t allow your thoughts to wander.

In our hurried, busy world, that’s harder than you think. If you can’t do it, then a daily meditation practice will give you the skills.