The Willpower Instinct

For example, adults who learn how to juggle develop more gray matter in regions of the brain that track moving objects. Areas of the brain can also grow more connected to each other, so they can share information more quickly. For example, adults who play memory games for twenty-five minutes a day develop greater connectivity between brain regions important for attention and memory.

Or you could do something a lot simpler and less painful: meditate. Neuroscientists have discovered that when you ask the brain to meditate, it gets better not just at meditating, but at a wide range of self-control skills, including attention, focus, stress management, impulse control, and self-awareness.

Start with five minutes a day. When this becomes a habit, try ten to fifteen minutes a day. If that starts to feel like a burden, bring it back down to five. A short practice that you do every day is better than a long practice you keep putting off to tomorrow.

immediately boost willpower: Slow your breathing down to four to six breaths per minute.

Physical exercise—like meditation—makes your brain bigger and faster, and the prefrontal cortex shows the largest training effect.

people who are on a diet are more likely to cheat on their spouse.

asked to use their nondominant hand for eating, brushing their teeth, and opening doors. The second group was told to avoid swearing and to say “yes” instead of “yeah.”