Do You Know Where Your Will Power Has Gone?

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You know will power - that elusive stuff that other people seem to have, but you don't? Or maybe you had a lot of it on January 1, excited by visions of a new you, but somehow the visions have gotten dimmer as the weeks have gone by.

The parking lot at the fitness center was so crowded on New Year's Day that new members circled endlessly, watching for someone to leave. (The veterans knew, grudgingly, to come early.) Soon there will be ample parking once again for the dedicated few who seem to keep going day after day, year after year, without succumbing to what I call the February Fade.

New Year's Resolutions can take a lot of forms, but all of them start off with a bang and then.

You may even be feeling a little guilt, or even a little disgust, over your difficulty in sticking with your resolutions, and wonder, "What's wrong with me?"

Nothing is wrong with you any more than having a muscle be weak because you haven't used it much, and you don't know quite how to exercise it.

Wouldn't you like to be able to build up your Will Power muscle, just as you build your biceps with curls, or your quadriceps with cycling?

Well, you can. And here's how:

Practice breathing. Practice mindfulbreathing, in this way: close your eyes, breathe in deeply for 4 counts, rest for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, rest for 4 counts.

That's all? Well, not quite.

Repeat these deep breaths, focusing on your breathing to the exclusion of everything else. Not quite able to exclude everything else? Join the crowd. You will have intrusive thoughts about what's going to happen today, or what happened earlier, or what happened in the third grade that today reminds you of - mind travel can go on and on. That's okay. Just keep breathing and focusing on your breathing.

Keep bringing your attention back to your breathing, because what you are doing is training your prefrontal cortex, the site of conscious thought and control (aka Will Power), to become stronger in over-riding the lower brain areas, those areas where your impulse to take the easy way out - slump down in front of the TV instead of exercising, eat the entire bag of chocolate chip cookies and skip the vegetables - is dominant.

The more you do this breathing and focusing exercise, the more you develop that control. If you were to do this simple exercise for five minutes per day, at the end of five months a brain scan would show significant changes in the area of your brain from which self control originates.

Isn't that worth the investment of five minutes per day? And hey, you don't have to stop at five minutes. Try it for 10, 15...

I don't think anyone has established an overdose level for mindful breathing.

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