Meditation is an Exercise for Developing Willpower

In these words of wisdom from Roy Baumeister and John Tierney from their book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength we learn that meditation is an exercise for developing willpower. By participating in daily meditation, we develop our willpower in other aspects of our lives.

Religious meditations often involve explicit and effortful regulation of attention. The beginner’s exercise in Zen meditation is to count one’s breaths up to ten and then do it again, over and over. The mind wanders quite naturally, so bringing it back to focus narrowly on one’s breathing builds mental discipline. So does saying the rosary, chanting Hebrew psalms, repeating Hindu mantras. When neuroscientists observe people praying or meditating, they see strong activity in two parts of the brain that are also important for self-regulation and control of attention. Psychologists see an effect when they expose people to religious words subliminally, meaning that the words are flashed on a screen so quickly that the people aren’t consciously aware of what they’ve seen. People who are subliminally exposed to religious words like God or Bible become slower to recognize words associated with temptations like drugs or premarital sex. “It looks as if people come to associate religion with tamping down these temptations,” says McCullough, who suggests that prayers and meditation rituals are “a kind of anaerobic workout for self-control.”
~ Roy Baumeister & John Tierney from Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

Silhouette of a man figure meditating in the outdoors

So what are you waiting for? If you can’t simply sit down and meditate for thirty minutes straight, why not try just 9 Minute Meditation for 21 days. This can help you generate the willpower to continue your practice and build up to twenty, thirty, or forty-five minutes each day. I know this works because I did it myself many years ago.

Books on Willpower

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

Roy F. Baumeister
John Tierney

Pioneering research psychologist Roy F. Baumeister collaborates with New York Times science writer John Tierney to revolutionize our understanding of the most coveted human virtue: self-control. Drawing on cutting-edge research and the wisdom of real-life experts, Willpower shares less… [Read More…]

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It

Kelly McGonigal

Based on Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal’s wildly popular course “The Science of Willpower,” The Willpower Instinct is the first book to explain the new science of self-control and how it can be harnessed to improve our health, happiness, and productivity.

Infor… [Read More…]

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