Inflammation might be messing with your willpower. Check yourself. First, do you get distracted easily from your goals? Next, does your thinking seem foggy? Finally, do you give in to temptations after you have vowed to abstain? While self-discipline is an important quality, your ability to focus on your intentions may have physiological roots.
A new study tested how inflammation impacted willpower. The results indicated that higher levels of inflammation correlated with undesirable behaviors. For example, subjects were more likely to be impulsive, to delay gratification, and to have difficulty focusing when their inflammation levels rose.
A group of researchers at TCU measured chronic inflammation in their subjects through various blood tests. Then they provoked inflammation by administering LPS (lipopolysaccharide). At length, they determined that the higher inflammation levels were, the more likely their subjects were to report poor concentration, greater impulsivity, and less self-control.
The Role of Inflammation in Your Body
Articles and blog posts lead us to believe that all inflammation is damaging. However, inflammation does play an important role in your health. When you receive an injury, your brilliant body creates inflammation to kill infection and clean up damaged tissues. Once your body heals the injury, inflammation subsides. But for many individuals, inflammation is chronic because the injuries are ongoing from poor lifestyle choices.
Unfortunately, inflammation that doesn’t go away contributes to scores of health problems, from headaches to heart disease, and from constipation to cancer. With the recently-published study from TCU, it seems that inflammation even hurts your willpower. Once deep-seated inflammation takes root in your body, you may be more prone to poor decisions that increase inflammation even more. For instance, you might eat more candy, drink more alcohol, or vape more nicotine because your willpower diminishes. So it becomes a downward spiral. The sugary treat you indulge in once actually makes you less capable of self-control over future temptations.
Sources of Inflammation
Many factors contribute to inflammation. Most of these causes are linked to lifestyle: chronic stress, insufficient sleep, alcohol and tobacco use, and food choices. Diet can have more influence than any other cause. Diets high in sugars, refined and processed foods, and unhealthy fats seem to be the most inflammatory.
Control Inflammation, Control Willpower
Want to reduce inflammation and increase your willpower? There are many tactics you can employ today that will increase your control over your mind. These include:
- Significantly limiting your intake of sugars and processed foods.
- Choosing whole foods free of preservatives and additives.
- Working with a health care practitioner to identify nutritional deficiencies and to make dietary adjustments to return your body to balance.
- Limiting alcohol and smoking.
- Participating in moderate physical activity every day.
- Engaging in stress-reducing activities frequently and consistently.
- Sleeping more than 7 hours every night.
The bottom line is that to triumph by mind over matter, you need to support matter over mind.