Boost Your Willpower with a Quick Squeeze

Boost Your Willpower with a Quick Squeeze

Next time you find yourself in front of a bakery window full of pastries, here's a little trick to help you say "no, thanks": Just make a fist, and squeeze.

Sounds a little goofy, we know. But there's scientific evidence that it may help boost your willpower. In a study, squeezing muscles at the moment of decision seemed to help prompt people to make healthier snack choices.

Flex Your Power
Researchers examined willpower under two conditions. In one, people were asked to use either loose or tight pen grips as they filled out surveys while standing in line at a snack bar. The people with firm, tight grasps on the pen made better, healthier snack choices. In another experiment, people were able to drink more of a not-so-great-tasting health tonic when they flexed their calf muscles while imbibing. Of course, healthful foods don't necessarily have to taste bad. But researchers see both the pen-grip experiment and the calf-flex experiment as evidence that our bodies -- and not just our minds -- help influence our self-control. (Did you know? You're more likely to say no to junk in the grocery store if you use this to pay.)

Muscle-to-Mind Connection
But there's a bit of a catch to it. In the study, the squeezing effect seemed to help only people who already had good health intentions. It didn't make as much difference if people didn't care about their health to begin with. So if eating right and staying slim are your goals, try a little muscle the next time you want to steel your resolve against junk food. And if eating healthfully isn't a goal, maybe it's time it was!

Medically reviewed in April 2019.

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