Thank Goodness for Gratitude: It Bolsters Willpower

It tricky to go shopping and not return with more than you expected. That’s because of Willpower. Basically we have one lump of it; after we use up that lump by, say, not buying a Pumpkin Spice Latte, that’s it, it’s gone. The next temptation you meet, no matter how slight (“Oh, look, free kittens!”), will do you in, and before you know it, you’ll have spent $600 on vet bills and another $300 on allergy medicine and a vacuum cleaner because congratulations you’re a pet owner.

What with the approaching holidays, the need to shop drags everyone from their homes, or to their monitors, with even greater frequency. Does anything help us hit “refresh” to get a brand new lump of willpower? An Op-Ed in the Times offers a potential fix: gratitude.

those [psychology subjects in the test] feeling grateful showed almost double the financial patience. They required $30 in the moment to forgo the $100 reward a year from now. What’s more, the amount of patience people possessed was directly tied to how grateful they felt.

What these findings show is that certain emotions can temporarily enhance self-control by decreasing desires for immediate gratification. While feeling happy doesn’t do much to increase patience, feeling grateful does.

So if you’re looking to avoid impulse-buying this year, take time not only to celebrate with your friends and family, but also to count your blessings.

It does not explain exactly how this process works, but I liked the idea and tried it at the grocery store where I went to buy ingredients for chili. As I scoured the aisles for beans and tomatoes, I was enticed by the instant gratification stuff, like chocolate-covered pretzels at $3.99 a bag and 99-cent York Peppermint Patties by the checkout counter. Ooh, yummy, let’s buy that, you know you deserve a treat, said one voice in my head. Be grateful we have legs!, another voice replied. What?? said the first voice. Uh, we have Hershey’s at home, a third voice said, interceding. So we went home and ate lots of it.

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