To be effective at controlling our urges and making sound decisions, the prefrontal cortex needs to be looked after. Like muscles it needs enough energy and oxygen to be able to soothe the fears of the amygdala. More on that in my previous blog “How the brain of natural leaders works.”
Here’s what you can do to strengthen your self control:
1. Reflect. After an uneasy event that made you react in a way you later regretted, reflect on the triggers which led to the overreaction. We can learn to prevent those same triggers from causing the same response by storing that information for future use. Recognising our triggers allow us to avoid them in the future.
2. Meditation or mindfulness training. Practices such as mindfulness and meditation help you in getting control over your brain. They make you aware that you are not your brain. You are the person observing your brain. Like your other body parts, the function of your brain is to serve you, not the other way around. Practicing helps to focus on what you decide to concentrate on. Instead of you following your brain, your brain starts following you.
3. Sleep and eat healty. Sleep deprivation (even just getting less than six hours a night) and malnutrition are a kind of chronic stress that impairs how the brain uses energy. The prefrontal cortex is especially hard hit. It loses control over the regions of the brain that create cravings and stress responses. Speaking about giving your amygdala a head start.