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Medical Willpower and performance?

  1. Jul 15, 2012 #1
    I've got a few questions.

    First of all I've heard alot that willpower is the cause of sometimes superhuman efforts like keeping awake for several days in a row, walking beyond one's physical capability, performing even when under severe resistance or extreme pain etc. What I first of all want to know is all this (or even a part of it) true? And how does will power actually cause such super human efforts?

    I'd also like to know how exactly does one increase his/her willpower (sorry if its a stupid question but I'd really like to know)? Is it by lengthy and strenous physical activity or also by doing stuff which normally you'd hate and avoid( where the challenge lies mentally)?

    Lastly I'd like to know how does one increase his stamina? Is it just by regularly doing strenous physical exercises or something else?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 17, 2012 #2
    Help, anybody?
  4. Jul 17, 2012 #3
    Willpower is placebo:

    Willpower is paradoxical:

    Willpower is allovertheplace:

    Willpower is about allocating attention:

    I think willpower is increased by doing anything that requires willpower: exercise it and it will get stronger.
  5. Aug 7, 2012 #4
  6. Aug 9, 2012 #5
    Attention is my problem. I feel like I could take over the world if I could just focus on one thing at a time. I've tried meditating again and again. I try it every day, but thoughts keep rushing through my head and I just can't seem to do it.

    The problem is only compounded by studies showing that the very act of dieting can make it even harder to resist temptation. In a 2007 experiment, Roy Baumeister — the influential psychologist behind the ego-depletion model of willpower and co-author of the interesting Willpower — gave students an arduous attention task, in which they had to watch a boring video while ignoring words at the bottom of the screen. Then, the students drank a glass of lemonade. Half of the students got lemonade with real sugar, while the other half got a drink made with Splenda. On a series of subsequent tests of self-control, the group given fake sugar performed consistently worse. The literal lack of sugar in their prefrontal cortex, that neural “muscle” behind willpower, made it even harder to not give in.

    hmmm.. So I should either eat large amounts of sugar while I study or completely break my dependence on sugar and never eat it again. (outside of fruit and veg and bead etc.)

    That was a great article thanks for posting it, I read about the experiment with the kids and the marshmallows in a few places but I never put any stock in the methods the kids used to stop themselves from eating, I just kind of laughed because it's silly to think of somebody covering their eyes and singing a song when faced with a marshmallow they know they shouldn't eat.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2012
  7. Aug 10, 2012 #6
    Meditation is definitely slow way to advance and full of pitfalls. There are number of things that needed to be balanced just right, like activity/passivity, practice/theory etc.

    Let me recommend this book.

    There is also this guy who writes a lot about results of meditation.
  8. Aug 10, 2012 #7
    If your blood sugar is low you start to feel miserable, of course, and that interferes with concentration. Sugar isn't the "willpower food" though, any more than any food is. If you're low on anything you'll feel bad and unable to concentrate.

    Removing a temptation, or diverting your attention from it, does nothing to build your will power IMO. True willpower is the ability to have it right in front of you and not eat it. An alcoholic, for example, is not on safe ground until they can go into a bar and easily order a coffee or soft drink and sit there without any danger of breaking down and ordering alcohol. In other words, you have to be able to bully through the surge of weakness that seems to arise when you contemplate cutting back on food.
  9. Aug 10, 2012 #8
    I disagree with that being low on suger causes weak concentration. See this.

  10. Aug 10, 2012 #9


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    Meditation advocates claim that meditation increase willpower (the idea being that you're practicing concentrating).
  11. Aug 13, 2012 #10
    Very interesting study. It strongly suggests the feeling of being hungry is more distracting than actually being calorie deprived. As long as you feel full and don't know your calorie intake has dropped dramatically, you're fine. Hehe. I wonder how long that can last.
  12. Aug 13, 2012 #11
    I chew gum a lot when I study, mostly to avoid returning library books with chewed corners. I think that's a "kinetic learner" thing.
  13. Aug 13, 2012 #12
    Yeah, before that I thought exactly the same as you. I always felt like I have no concentration after I have not eaten half a day or something, but when I try it now, after finding that study, I don't feel like that anymore :) Hunger fades quite quickly, I find.

    People seem to be seriously bad at evaluating their own mental performace. There was a study that tested temporarily mentaly disadvantaged people(I don't remember what was cause of this) and even though objective tests showed they had significantly lower scores, the affected people swore they feel entirely ok.

    So the next time you feel like sh/t - you maybe really only feel like that!
  14. Aug 13, 2012 #13
    Maybe not. These "learner types" seem to be another myth.
  15. Aug 14, 2012 #14
    I hadn't eaten yet earlier when I read your post. I decided to push it. It's one A.M. and I still haven't had anything to eat all day. I don't feel too bad. I'm going to see if I can fall asleep this way.
  16. Aug 14, 2012 #15
    Look at this. It seems two day a week fasting can have some benefical effects.

    I always eat in the evening (because I have trouble sleeping while hungry!) and on selected days have about 24-hours of no-eating. Sometimes these 24-hours are entirely fine but sometimes they are torture. I still don't know the cause.
  17. Aug 14, 2012 #16
    That's not definitive, however, and it might lead to infertility.
  18. Aug 14, 2012 #17

    I really don't feel like they are a myth since I'm a teacher and I see them in my every day life. It seems as clear as day that they exist. I mean I see them everywhere. If neuroscience hasn't caught up with common sense yet then I think that's a problem with neuroscience.

    I mean what does it even have to do with them. "I find it easier to learn when I am walking around or moving" "ah but we have no proof of that! You are wrong! Sit still!"

    The thing is I would never say "you're an auditory learner so I'm only going to talk to you and not help you in other way" because most people learn in all 3 ways but in differing degrees, and it's important for them to figure out what helps them the most. In class I try to get everybody doing everything.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2012
  19. Aug 14, 2012 #18
    I can't help but think we evolved to live off our fat stores for longer periods than people think. The whole reason we get fat is to store energy during "feast" periods, when food supplies were plentiful, and use that fat to survive during "famine" periods, especially winter. It's plausible to me that our current problems are not the urge to over eat, but the lack of naturally occurring famine periods to use up what we've stored. Deliberate occasional fasting might represent a return to a cycle we evolved to handle better than constant "feast" conditions, which we're now capable of.

    I'm the same. It's much easier to not eat all day and then have a meal before going to bed. An 800-1000 calorie meal after 24 hours of not eating feels like a vastly larger meal than it otherwise would, and I fall asleep pretty easily afterward.

    There's usually a couple episodes of hunger pangs during the day, and that's where you apply your will power. The hunger does actually subside in a few minutes.
  20. Aug 14, 2012 #19
    Sounds like a bad idea to me. How many people suffer from some form of IBS? 1 in 3? I forget. Fasting with IBS will give you the worst ****s imaginable!
  21. Aug 15, 2012 #20
    This paper says it's more like 1 in 10:


    So, those without IBS shouldn't fast because those with it will experience discomfort?

    Maybe the ones with IBS could fast by eating the non-caloric food in the study.
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