Willpower runs out – who knew!

Posted by Karen Degen on 10th June 2014

Tags: decision making, self control, willpower

Apparently having self control, otherwise known as willpower, makes us happier.  If we have better self-control, we have a choice and we can ignore the first impulse. According to studies by Professor Roy Baumeister we spend about 3 to 4 hours a day resisting desire and about 30 minutes each day giving in!

His research shows that willpower gets depleted over time, which I find fascinating.  Who knew?  Apparently it works like a muscle and gets tired.

The other thing I found fascinating is that decision-making gets harder if our willpower is tired or depleted.  It can be difficult to make decisions or choose the best option. Apparently, if our store of willpower is low we make more self-indulgent and illogical choices.  We all know what that is like.

Willpower is also influenced by other factors like our blood Glucose levels, PMS and physical exertion, which can all impair our decision-making abilities. For example, a study showed that judges in Israeli courts are more likely to give parole to prisoners just after their 10am snack and after lunch. The chances decrease as the day wears on.

How do we know when our willpower or self control is depleted?  Professor Baumeister says “There’s no signature feeling.  However, one sign is that people feel everything more strongly”.  So if you are feeling things more intensely watch out – your decision-making ability may not be good.

The good news is your willpower can be restored by having a meal, getting a good night’s sleep, and taking note of what makes you vulnerable to making poor decisions.

I love this research because now I have a scientific excuse for not being able to resist that chocolate.


(Credit where its due – I found some of this information on someone else’s blogg, but they blogged anonymously so I don’t know who it was)

Also there is an interesting blog here by Elly McGuinness about the ‘willpower gap’.  Elly is an online fitness and wellbeing trainer who can help you to lead a fitter, healthier life.

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