Yoga and Ayurveda offer strategies to develop positive willpower and end your struggle with food.
These strategies can be divided in two categories: mini-strategies and life-changing strategies.
Mini strategies to develop positive willpower
1- Sit down to eat your “forbidden” food.
2- Allow yourself to have it once.
3- Eat a healthier version, usually it will be so rich that you won’t be able to eat more of it.
4- Get what you want so you don’t overeat of other things.
5- Don’t explain yourself to other people, just say you’re improving your lifestyle.
6- Experiment with what you can do without. For example try vegan versions.
7- When you eat too many expansive foods like sugar, alcohol and coffee, you’ll crave contractive foods like cheese and meat. Have more variety in your meals.
8- In situations when you can’t have the food you want, make the best food decisions you can and take a digestive or eat a little salad of bitter greens at the end of the meal.
Life-changing strategies to develop positive willpower
1- Awareness without judgement
Be curious about your challenges and cravings. When you give in notice your thoughts and how you feel. Be inquisitive and feel whatever it is you are trying to fill, suppress, feel etc.
2- Let the positive be heavier
When you give in to whatever it is you resist, instead of focusing on that negative part, remember all the good things you’ve accomplished.
Our energy is wasted on too many negative things; by overcoming negative thinking patterns, you save energy, prana.
3- Practice SWAN
The SWAN principle was developed by Swami Niranjanananda. Each letter refers to an area to be delved into for self-understanding and self-development:
S refers to Strengths
W refers to weaknesses
A refers to aims or aspirations
N refers to needs
You don’t need to use the SWAN principle in a specific order. In a time of crisis or challenge, when you don’t know how to manage a difficult situation, like overeating, it’s a good idea to stop and look at the resources you have to deal with this situation. What is your aspiration? Where are you vulnerable? What do you need in order to achieve the outcome you want? What resources do you have right now to create a different outcome?
You can also use the SWAN principle to organize your day. You may start with the day’s needs or aims and see what you need to achieve your aims. Follow with an analysis of what strengths you have as resources and acknowledge your weaknesses in order to manage them better.
4- Create a positive Sankalpa or intention
Sankalpa is the capacity to harness positive willpower.
Sankalpa is a yogic practice that develops positive willpower in the deeper layers of our consciousness.
You are what your deep desire is, as your deep driving desire is, so is your will, as your will is, so is your deed, as your deed is, so is your destiny. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (Chapter 4, Section 4, Verse 5)
Therefore, a deep desire has to happen first. That’s when the Sankalpa comes into play.
For most of us, the subconscious runs our life. If we could consciously decide to do something and just do it, wouldn’t it be great? But we consciously decide to do something and then we keep sliding back. Part of that is the subconscious part of us taking over. So at the level of our subconscious, we sabotage ourselves.
We need to replace what’s in our subconscious now with a strong desire, a strong resolve. That’s the role that the Sankalpa plays. This practice is part of a greater practice called Yoga Nidra. During Yoga Nidra, the Sankalpa is purposefully placed at the beginning and end of the meditation. That’s because during those times our mind is the most receptive and relaxed.
Tests show that during these times, the brain goes into an alpha state. The alpha state is associated with “peak performance” (the zone). Elite athletes produce alpha brain waves prior to concentrated performance. Highly creative people have been shown to have “bursts” of alpha brain waves when they have good ideas. It’s the best state for super learning because both brain hemispheres are engaged. Therefore, the Sankalpa stated during Yoga Nidra will not fail because the brain is ready to absorb it.
How to create a Sankalpa that will work?
A Sankalpa is a short, positive statement which begins with “I am” or “I will”. For example, “I’m feeling full and satisfied after each meal.” Or, “I make healthier food choices naturally and effortlessly.”
Repeat exactly the same words at each sitting.
And repeat it three times with conviction and sincerity.
Keep it until it comes true.
Furthermore, have a Sankalpa journal. At the beginning of each day, write down your Sankalpa for that day. Write one way you will engage your positive willpower to achieve it.
At the end of the day, answer the following: Did I fulfill this Sankalpa? What did it mean to me to achieve this? or What will I do tomorrow to achieve this?
If you do not achieve your Sanklpa the first day, do it the next day and the next until it comes true.
In this way, you’re training your consciousness, so it becomes stronger when you’re saying your Sankalpa during Yoga Nidra.
For more information on Yoga Nidra and Sankalpa, schedule a personalized yoga and meditation session with me and listen to my Yoga Nidra recording.
In the next blog, I’ll discuss how to use specific yoga poses to increase positive willpower in your life!