The Relationship Between Energy, Nutrition, Focus, Discipline

The Relationship Between Energy, Nutrition, Focus, Discipline

One of the virtues most associated with Victorian England was that of discipline and self-control. What separated the elites from the lower masses was believed to be in large part a direct result of their self-discipline. It made them better people, they insisted. Regardless of your socio-political leaning, science now tells us that there was a great amount of truth to their philosophy. Self control is a direct indicator and effector of self-fulfillment and success in life. Willpower, along with intelligence, is a defining and crucial characteristic.

How much discipline you exert governs how well you do.

Studies have shown that self control correlates with positive results in life. People who exert more discipline do better in school, earn more money, achieve more goals, are more popular, and even have less car accidents.

On the flip side, people who have less self-control are more likely to struggle with focus, earn less, have less satisfying lives, have less friends, struggle with body issues, emotional issues, and are more prone to addiction.

While it may seem obvious to say that self-control leads to success, the reality is slightly more complex and worth delving into.

Willpower, or the ability to exert control to change one's actions and responses, is the one of the defining characteristics of Homo sapiens. We can experience an instinctive physiological response to life and spend some attention and energy to change that response. It really is what separates us from lower life forms. We often call it free will.

While the whole process is still philosophically ripe for debate, the science of it is becoming well understood. The last part of the brain to evolve was the pre-frontal cortex, which is believed to be the seat of discipline and willpower. Research in neuroscience shows that parts of the prefrontal cortex are activated when we exert self-control, and then shows concomitantly lowered activity in the amygdala (the more animal responses.) Energy is being expended at varying rates by the activity.

Furthermore, humans spend about half their waking time engaged in some level of self-discipline, so this is a key function that requires considerable resources

This simply means that when you direct your focus to control a reaction in yourself, whether it be to resist eating, or to prevent a sad feeling, or to resist anger or the urge to fight, you are expending energy. Your body has a finite daily store of energy, as you well know, so the more energy you have, the better your brain is at controlling your body. To be a well disciplined person, and therefore a successful person, requires both good energy resources and good utilization.

But even more importantly, neuroscience has also determined that the same areas used for will are also used for other decision making. So not only does your energy level affect your ability to have discipline and self-control, it also affects your ability to make any decision. Studies done at Florida State University on participants challenged to acts of self-control and then subsequently tested for levels of energy, stamina, discipline and decision-making, showed a clear lowering of ability in all areas.

As examples, lower energy levels, and thus lowered self-discipline levels, leads to problems like difficulty focusing, maintaining a diet (where control and good decision-making is key), choosing regular exercise habits, controlling spending habits, making smarter life decisions, and avoiding or recovering from addiction. So food, energy, focus, and self-control are all inter-dependent. This is also the reason why attention and focus deficiencies and disorders are treated with energy stimulants.

Good energy levels = good decision making!

Not only does this reinforce the importance of self-control, but it also offers us good news. It turns out that discipline and willpower is very much like a muscle. The more you use, the stronger it gets. This means that if you keep your energy levels up, and actively use your willpower, you will make good decisions, improve your self-control, and enjoy fulfilling results and rewards. Keep at it and it keeps getting better. This why the Victorians were on to something in this respect.

Keep your energy levels up with nutrition and exercise self-discipline.

The key to staying in peak condition is fortunately pretty straightforward. Simply recognizing that you are spending energy is a good start. Just like you have a daily financial budget that guides you, you to understand discipline and decision making the same way.

This means paying careful attention to what you exert self-control over.

If you have a budget each day and you don't want to have to continually eat to replenish resources, then you need to be more judicious. Do not waste energy on things that do not matter. Don't choose to focus on small and insignificant situations and feelings. Focus and will spent on foolish matters reduces your ability to decide and act when the stakes are higher.

Be more disciplined about your discipline!

Next, recognize that you are spending critical energy, so the less you have available, the less ideally you function. As I said, less energy means poorer self-control and poorer decision making. Studies done on anger and aggression responses found that subject's aggressive levels dropped quickly when given an energy or glucose drink. So keeping your resources up is crucial. You cannot starve yourself for any reason. Even if you are on a restrictive diet, it is self-defeating to be hungry. It only leads to less available self-control, so you make it harder to succeed.

Eat plenty of the right foods and you will avoid hunger and keep your fuel up for the really tough decisions and choices. If you are low on energy, you run the risk of trouble.

Use food, or even a carefully-balanced energy boosting supplement, to ensure you have the resources your brain needs to first maintain focus, so you can then direct your willpower to the required challenges and decisions. Statistical research on the results of decisions made by judges presiding over probationary hearings showed a correlation between energy levels and positive choices. Parolees were much likelier to get a favorable result earlier in the day and shortly after lunch. Willpower and focus are intertwined.

The message is clear: If you have an important decision to make, make early in the day after a good night's sleep and after a good breakfast (and even some moderate exercise will help.) Moreover, keep your energy levels up during the critical decision making parts of your day to maximize positive results. And be as attentive to exercising your willpower, and for the right things, to ensure one of your most important skills is functioning at peak capacity.

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The opinions expressed in this article are of the author. Content and other information presented on the site are not meant to be medical advice or any substitute for professional advice, counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard professional medical or mental health advice from your physician or other qualified health provider.

 

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