Home » Willpower Buffered for Healthy Living by Doing This One Thing

Willpower Buffered for Healthy Living by Doing This One Thing

More willpower is something many people feel they need in order to eat healthy, exercise and lose weight.  If I told you there was one thing you could do to increase your self-control, would you do it?

Do This One Thing to Stop the Loss of Willpower | Inner Savvy Wellness
I don’t believe willpower is the only thing that helps you live a healthy life.  Strong chemical cravings, emotions, stress, and habits all play a part in why you choose to eat junk food or sit in front of the tv.  However, willpower can help move you forward in your healthy living journey.

Willpower is your ability to control yourself.  Having self-control is similar to a muscle in that it can become exhausted when it is used.  The more you make decisions of any kind throughout the day, the more likely you will have less willpower as the day goes on…ever wonder why evenings seem to be hardest for most people to eat well?

Scientific studies typically focus on what decreases self-control such as making decisions, but it rarely looks at what might strengthen willpower.

I came across this study, Personal Prayer Buffers Self-Control Depletion.

We know there are many benefits of personal prayer. People who pray tend to be more forgiving, kinder, and feel less stress, but now this study states that it can increase your self-control.

This study didn’t give a reason for why that might be, but I can tell you in my own personal experience, the more I prayer, the more I learn to let go of my need to be in control.  The first two-thirds of my life I planned, organized, moved, and gave orders to make sure I had everything under control.  But what I have realized is that I am never in control.  God is in control. He allows me the illusion of control.

In my prayer time as I have drawn closer to God, I am able to let go. I used to pray more with petition…asking for things. Now as trust in God’s divine omnipotence grows, I spend more time in adoration and thanksgiving.  I can let things happen as they are meant to happen.  Don’t get me wrong, I still plan, organize and move. I still ask for things, however, it is with the thought that I must do what I can, and God will handle the rest.

When I start my day in prayer, I feel less stressed, I feel kinder, and I am more forgiving because I trust that things will work out the way they are meant to work out.  I guess I have let go of much of my self-control.

The paradox is that the more I let go, the more strength I seem to have. I can control my desires. Oh, I am far from where I want to be, but I do see the progress and feel the reduction in stress and worry.

There you have it, the one thing you can do to increase your willpower is to spend time in prayer.

Do you pray? Do you think prayer can increase your willpower? Tell me in the comments when and how you pray?

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57 comments

  1. Meghan says:

    I read a great quote once and it went something like, “We think we need to pray for some great work to be done through us (though this is a good thing to ask of God), but prayer IS the greater work.” I don’t have a designated time I pray, though in the morning when it is quiet I appreciate that alone time with my Father. I pray throughout the day, write my prayers down, sing my prayers…

    Thanks for sharing! Your neighbor @ #CoffeeForYourHeart

    • Karen says:

      Hi Meghan, So glad you find time for prayer in your alone time and throughout the day. Sure sounds like your are finding the “benefit” of prayer. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Thanks for this.. I sadly have no willpower.. or rather not much… and I have my own struggles with my faith for years now.. so not thinking the prayer thing will work for me.. but great read though. 😉

    • Karen says:

      Kristen, I am sorry you feel you have no willpower and that you have struggles with faith. Whatever your faith background is, consider trying whatever prayer means to you. You might be surprised that letting go, just might give you a little bit of self-control. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  3. Tammy says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post on willpower. My prayer life is more random than intentional. I try to make specific time during the day but it feels forced. I tend to pray when provided simple moments during the day. In the shower, waiting for the dogs to come back in, driving to work, before getting out of the car, walking to get my kids off the bus…just random times throughout the day when I need to reconnect with the Lord as well as be more intentional in my thoughts and actions.

    • Karen says:

      I love that you stop to reconnect with the Lord throughout the day…pray without ceasing. Finding what works for you is great. Prayer is unique to each person. I do that too, but have developed my prayer time in the morning. Yes, it felt forced at first too, but now after many years, I it is a vital part of my day. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Karen says:

      Yes, Tamuria, exactly. There probably is also a physical explanation, that when you pray and let go, your cortisol goes done, which can help you be less stress, which in turns helps with self-control. Whatever it is the practice of letting go is so important.

  4. Hi Karen, I just love this article. It is so true … As I get older I find myself letting go of the things I cannot change and let them play out as they were meant too. It does release a lot of the stress that we put ourselves under by trying to be in control of every aspect of our daily lives. I enjoy life so much more just by letting go! Thank you for bringing your inspiration to #SimplifyWednesdays !

    • Karen says:

      Thanks for hosting #SimplifyWednesdays. I have to admit that letting go seems to come along with getting older and wiser. 🙂 Glad you are experiencing less stress in your life.

  5. I so love this Karen–and know it to be true. Isn’t it funny how Control is at the root of almost all of our foibles? Prayer is that act of communion, that space for God–whatever we perceive God to be–to gently take the reins we offer.
    My goal is to one day truly pray without ceasing . . .

    • Karen Grosz says:

      Susan, What a beautiful comment. I am sure one day you will pray without ceasing if that is what you are desiring. I think God delights in making those type of prayers become a reality.

  6. Joan Potter says:

    Karen, while some people may consider prayer to be an exercise of making wishes to imaginary friends – I wonder if meditation would yield the same results. It would be interesting to actually see a double-blind study of prayerful people who place faith in a higher power, and secular people who meditate. Would one group have a higher rate of self-control vs. the other group? As you mentioned, above, exhibiting greater control may simply lie in the practice of “letting go.”

    • Karen Grosz says:

      Joan, Would love to see that study as well, but doubt it will happen since there is no money in it. I meditate as well and there are many benefits to meditation as well. Either/or, and both are helpful to overall help.

  7. Joyce Hansen says:

    We’re often taught that if we only had “will power” we could control whatever demon that is keeping us from leading a better life. Overcoming bad habits or choices takes time and needs to be supported in a way that will work for each individual. Prayer, mindfulness, and letting go need to be part of the mix.

    • Karen says:

      Yes, and they are finding the more you try to use willpower the faster you lose it. Not that willpower doesn’t have a roll. We all need some willpower/self-control in our lives, but prayer, meditation, mindfulness, letting go all help aid that, not just determination.

  8. I think it is all a mix. For you it is prayer, surrendering to your faith. For me is is quiet time, gratitude, feeling the love of the life I have. Add to it letting go, no forcefulness, trust and I gave up control.

    • Karen says:

      I agree it is a mix. However there has been studies on mindfulness and meditation, but rarely on prayer. I think an all-the-above strategy can really help with overall health and wellbeing. Thanks, Ros

  9. Reading this reminded me of a workshop I did many years ago on The Sedona Method. The premise is that everything we do is either for control or for acceptance. Each of us finds our own ways to acknowledge and manage this intrinsic aspect of our human beingness. This is why meditation works for so many people. I appreciate hearing how prayer has been such a wonderful freer for you in your own life, Karen. Letting go of control is one of our human challenges and as we are each highly individual, we do find our own ways to let go and find our strength. Thanks for sharing!

    • Karen says:

      I agree, we each have individual needs and practices that work for us. The Sedona Method sounds interesting. I love that more science is showing ways for us to let go and that when we do it affects our health positively.

  10. Teresa Salhi says:

    I feel this is always the best way although it may not always be obvious to us…for sure not always for me. But to pray and ask. Trust and let go. Thank you for sharing a wonderful sentiment and truth.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks for stopping by from #ShareTheJoyLinky, it is a great link up. I love that science is finding out many ways to improve our health from prayer to meditation and mindfulness.

  11. Kimberly says:

    I am very spiritual, and I feel as though I have an ongoing conversation with God all day… Bouts of gratefulness, requests for strength… I agree feeling like you can let go and not have to control it all is powerful!

  12. Karen Grosz says:

    Kimberly, sure sounds like you are doing one thing that will help your willpower (not to mention all the other benefits of a continual connection with God.) Thanks for commenting.

  13. Lisa Swanson says:

    The more you let go, the more control you have; how very true. I don’t call what I do “praying” but I do know when I consistently take time at the beginning of each day to focus on what my desires are, my life flows with more ease. What I seek comes to me because I believe my intuition is heightened; I know which choices to make to bring me closer to what I desire. I know what to let go of, and what to focus on. God, the higher power, the omni-present substance of the universe, whatever you want to “name’ it is alway within us and I believe will guide us in the right direction but it is still up to us to create and make things happen. And in order to create we need to let go so the message comes through.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lisa, I knew you would take time at the beginning of your day. Keep doing it. There are so many benefits. Too many people just get up, get going, go all day and drop. Where is there time for mental, physical or spiritual health. Thanks for commenting.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joan, so your own experience is similar to what the science says. That is awesome. I hope there will be more studies on prayer, but unfortunately there isn’t money in it, so studies don’t happen. Love that you have personal experience with it.

  14. Michelle says:

    Discipline is the word I like to use. We often have willpower but disciplines in our daily life, at least for me, makes me stay on track. Great post.

  15. Suzie says:

    Karen, I really appreciated this post! I’ve never thought about prayer/will power as linked before and found this tought-provoking. Thanks!

  16. Jerralea says:

    “The paradox is that the more I let go, the more strength I seem to have.” The life of a Christian does seem to be paradoxical often. I think it is because we are called to live an opposite life of what a worldly person lives.

    I think the great thing Is, God gives us everything we need to live a holy life for him (2 Peter 1:3)

    Thanks for sharing at the Loft!

  17. I do pray, but not to the regular deities. More, I just converse with my environment, my parents (who have passed away), to my better self, my higher power (who/whatever that may be) and so on. It is a comfort.

    • Karen says:

      I am glad you found it to be a comfort. There was no indication of who or what you have to pray to in order to have benefits. For me it is God, but I know others pray to many others/things.

  18. I am a constant prayer. And I find that when I remember that God is sitting right beside me that I do better with stress, the need to fix things, the anxiety. Things are already in motion, and I can’t change them, although that doesn’t stop me from asking! When I move away from talking to God constantly I find that I am more tired, worn down and out.

    I love this article and I will be showing it to my kids. They aren’t at this place yet, but it may make them remember to pray when they are anxious. Or even before they feel anxiety. I tell them that I don’t care what people think, I talk to God when I’m in the car, I probably look crazy at a stoplight, but it makes life so much easier!

    • Karen says:

      I love that you talk to God all the time. No one will know you are talking to God, but wouldn’t it be cool if more people did that? Thanks for sharing with your kids. There are so many reasons to pray, but I think it is great that beyond those reasons, there is the practical, stopping the decline of willpower.

  19. Marissa says:

    Wonderful post – of course, Prayer will bolster our self-control because self-control is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, and the more we pray and empty ourselves of our sinful nature in communication with the Creator of all, we allow the Spirit to fill us more and more, therefore allowing His fruit to be evident in us.

    thank you for sharing with #TheCozyReadingSpot

    • Karen says:

      Marissa, you said that so well. What a beautiful truth. I can tell just by what you wrote the Holy Spirit is evident in your life. Thanks for hosting #TheCozyReadingSpot.

  20. Jane Allen says:

    I used to be a control freak until a major life crisis showed I was never in control. I needed God’s help to get out of the situation. Now, like you said, I know I’m not in control. I understand that God is sovereign and He does things the way He pleases. I’m cool with that (even though I struggle with it occasionally). But, I’m more at peace now, knowing that when I pray, God answers. Other people may not answer my call but He does. He remembers me. That’s such a consolation for me, especially in times when I suffer. That study finding is true. And, I think prayer lowers my stress. I’m less under pressure nowadays.

    • Karen says:

      Jane, that is beautiful. So happy that you are feeling less pressure since stress is such a major cause of chronic illnesses, it can delay or stop an onset of an illness. Keep trusting God. We all struggle occasionally, it is part of our nature, but you know, so find ways to keep coming back to Him. (I just attended a weekend retreat on God’s mercy just for the reason…to remind myself and let go.)

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