Whether your New Year’s resolution is to stop smoking, to eat more healthily or to cut down on your favourite tipple, studies show that it’s all about the brain. If you’ve always thought you were weak-willed while those around you were made of stronger stuff, think again. Willpower, it seems, is a somewhat limited resource and many experts believe that trying to give up too many things at once or when under stress, is not only difficult but more or less impossible. You have to be in the right frame of mind and where willpower is concerned, that would be the prefrontal cortex just behind your forehead. This is the area of the brain responsible for keeping you focused, handling short-term memory and solving abstract problems. If it’s busy doing all of these things at once, showing restraint when faced with chocolate-biscuit shaped temptation can sometimes prove too much. Simply put, a preoccupied or tired brain is much more likely to give in.
The following tips should help you to ‘outsmart’ your addictions:
One thing at a time!
Research shows you are much more likely to succeed in your goals if you concentrate on one change at a time. Kickstarting your day with freshly whizzed green stuff, coupled with daily sessions down the gym (having previously never set foot in one), whilst banning all chocolate in the same week, is unrealistic.
Small changes, big results
At Jan de Vries we believe in making small changes to our lifestyle to create balance in our lives. Eat regularly, even if you’ve made it your New Year Resolution to lose weight. Your brain uses more energy when it’s being asked to exert willpower and the hungrier you are the harder it is to resist cravings.
Sugar cravings & swaps
To combat sugary cravings, chromium-rich foods, which include wholegrains, brown rice and green beans, or a chromium supplement can help. Spirulina can also help to reduce cravings and that’s because it is a really good source of tyrosine, an amino acid that encourages the brain to release dopamine, which is what sugar does, and so cravings for the sweet stuff are reduced.
You could also look consider a number of sugar alternatives, such as stevia and xylitol, to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Reduce nicotine cravings naturally
For nicotine cravings there’s the amino acid N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC). NAC has proven helpful in various forms of addiction including, nicotine, alcoholism, sugar cravings and gambling. It is thought to work by stimulating the brain chemicals that mediate reward-seeking behaviour and cravings.
Glutamine for addiction
Another useful amino acid is glutamine, with some studies showing that regular supplementation can help to reduce alcohol intake. As a key neurotransmitter, glutamine is also thought to increase mental function and alertness.
Look after your adrenals
Battling any addiction can be stressful, which places extra strain on your main anti-stress organs, the adrenal glands. The B-complex vitamins offer excellent adrenal support. Avocados are one of the best food sources of the B vitamins. Sunflower seeds are another; they also contain amino acids that help to calm the nervous system. If you’re really suffering try chewing a handful really thoroughly until the craving passes. Oats are also a great nerve tonic and can help considerably to reduce addiction, making porridge a good start to the day.
Sticking to your New Year’s resolutions – we prefer to call them positive life changes – is not easy but by giving your brain the support it needs you’re giving yourself the best chance possible.