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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Tips for Making Healthy Choices in the Face of Decision Fatigue

GettyImages-506139898It’s the end of the day. There was a string of meetings to attend, a pile of emails to answer, an argumentative colleague to work with, maybe even kids yelling for pizza when you had chicken planned for dinner instead. By the time you get home, you’ve already made a plethora of decisions, from how to approach a problem at work to what shoes to wear on your way out the door. You told yourself you would exercise when you got home, but now the couch looks a lot more enticing. All those decisions you made have taken a biological toll on your motivation and self-control, whether you realize it or not.

Decision fatigue, or the deteriorating quality of decisions after making numerous previous choices, happens to even the most rational and strong-willed of us. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder it is to exert self-control and make better decisions later. So no, your choice to binge-watch Game of Thrones with a pint of ice cream in hand after a particularly decision-heavy day isn’t necessarily because you lack motivation or willpower. Luckily, there are a few tips and tricks that you can employ to hack decision fatigue and help boost your willpower.

Here are four ways you can help combat decision fatigue in your day.

Make Repeated-Daily Decisions the Night Before

Some of the most draining decisions are the ones that you make again, and again, and again. Blocking off time the night before can save tons of mental energy the following day. It’s the outfit you’re wearing to work tomorrow, the lunch you will eat, and even which KCup to choose for your morning buzz (very crucial, I know). All of these take less than a few minutes to decide and even complete, so tackle them the night before to set yourself up for success tomorrow.

Attack the Most Important Task First

Willpower is somewhat like any muscle in your body: it fatigues with use. The brain will start to look for shortcuts if decisions pile up. Namely, it will either a) become reckless and impulsive (hello bag of chips for lunch), or it will b) become the energy saver and do nothing (where my fellow procrastinators at?). If you have something that you are trying to prioritize and work on, put your best foot forward and attack it first while you have ample attention and energy to do so. Maybe it’s improving your body composition, maybe it’s starting a side business, maybe it’s beginning a daily mindfulness habit. Whatever it may be, start your day by working on the most important thing in your life.

Schedule Your Success: Don’t Leave It to Chance

We all have great intentions when we start the day. But its not enough to hope that you’ll have the energy to go to the gym after work. Or that you’ll be disciplined enough to choose a serving of vegetables over that nighttime Nutella binge (can you tell I’m a bit hungry writing this?). Making ourselves a schedule takes out the decision-making process and eliminates another opportunity for our brain to check out and give in to impulses. If making exercise a habit is a priority for you, physically put it on your calendar and weekly agenda. Now hoping that you’ll have the willpower when you leave work won’t be the problem; you’ll just know that NIFS is where you’ll be heading on Tuesdays at 5:30pm.

Eat Something First if You Have to Make Good Decisions Later

In a study by Danziger et al. (2011) published by the National Academy of Sciences, researchers analyzed over 1,100 judicial rulings for parole hearings over a 10-month period. Judges had a favorable ruling to start the day 65% of the time. As the day progressed, and more decisions were made, that percentage gradually dropped to nearly zero. The only exception? When the judges returned from lunch break, a ruling’s favorability jumped back up to the same 65%. Moral of the story? If you have an important decision to be made, but you realize that it won’t be approached until later, try eating a small snack beforehand. Being hangry can make it easier to be impulsive. So while you should try to tackle the most important tasks and decisions first, it might not always be realistic or possible to do so. Have that healthy snack at the ready (or packed the night before) if you know that your day calls for willpower later.

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The average person makes more than 30,000 decisions daily. And the more decisions that we make, the more difficult subsequent choices become. Try a few of these techniques to help streamline your day and keep your willpower intact and refreshed going forward.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy habits healthy eating healthy lifestyle healthy living decision-making

Yoga: What Is It, and How Do I Choose the Right Class?

Yoga3Yoga is pretty popular, and not just in the fitness industry. It’s getting lots of press for its ability to aid in living a generally healthy lifestyle. When people hear about healthy living, they often associate that only with exercise, and sometimes neglect the importance of a balanced diet and de-stressing techniques. Studies are now showing that it’s important to balance out all areas of life; not just one part should have dominance.

What Is Yoga?

By definition, yoga is a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation. Yoga was developed in India up to 5,000 years ago as a comprehensive system for well-being to balance the body physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Contrary to common thinking, yoga is not a belief system but a guidance technique to enrich living and aid in attaining goals.

Forms of Yoga

There are many types of yoga you might have heard of, including Vinyasa, Hatha, Iiyengar, Bikram, Ashtanga, and restorative, just to name a few. When it comes to picking the "right" yoga class, I say give them all a try because each of them is unique. Some involve lots of moving, some involve lots of deep stretching, some involve heat, and some even involve the use of nature and animals. The whole concept of yoga is to breathe and relax the mind. If you take a class that does not bring out those feelings in you, don't give up! Try that format a couple of times and see whether it is enjoyable. If it's not, research what you are looking to get out of your class and try one that offers that. 

Yoga to Me

Yoga means so many things to me. I began my yoga journey in 2009 to relax during a tough family situation. I was in love with the way it made me feel, and every week I looked forward to my Sunday night time on my mat. In 2011, my mom’s medical condition worsened and I began going to yoga 3 to 4 times a week. In 2014, I decided I was so impressed with the way it changed my mindset that I wanted to become certified, so I spent 3 months intensively training to get my 200 hour yoga certification. My yoga journey has a lot more depth, but that was the beginning. I never knew cancer would lead me to a career path of success and happiness, which is ultimately living a daily life of yoga.

Yoga at NIFS

Yoga is a growing class at NIFS. With a wide variety of instructors, you won’t find your standard “gym yoga.” All of the NIFS yoga instructors are 200 hour or more certified. You might take a class with a “flow” to it, be in a class with a more restorative approach, or even see that Yoga for Athletes is offered for those who want a strength-based yoga class. Check the Group Fitness Schedule for classes and times.

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This blog was written by Brittany Ignas, BS in Kinesiology, 200 Hour Yoga Alliance Certified, Stott Pilates Certified, and Fitness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS yoga group fitness strength relaxation healthy living meditation stress relief