New year? New you!

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 ressource and many experts believe that trying to give up too many things at once or when under stress, is 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 us focused, handling short-term memory and solving abstract problems.

Unfortunately if it’s busy doing all of these things at once, showing restraint can sometimes prove too much. Simply put: 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; embarking upon a new diet, coupled with daily sessions down the gym, is unrealistic. Let’s face it, how many of us have regretted taking out that expensive gym membership come the end of January?

If you’ve made it your New Year Resolution to lose a few pounds, do so sensibly. There is no magic weight loss pill. Eat healthily; that means incorporating plenty of wholegrains into your diet, fresh fruit and vegetables, if you eat meat, opt for lean cuts, and try to eat at least two portions of fish a week.

Eat regularly. 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.

Oats are a great nerve tonic and can help considerably to reduce dependency, making porridge a good start to the day and for a helping hand with sugary cravings, chromium-rich foods (these include whole grains, brown rice and green beans) or a chromium supplement can help.

Remember, moderate but regular exercise is key to a healthy lifestyle as it speeds up the rate at which your body breaks down fat, so try to grab at least 20 minutes a day.

For nicotine cravings there’s the amino acid N-acetylcysteine (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.

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.

Finally, 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, whereas sunflower seeds 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.

Sticking to your New Year’s resolution is not easy but by giving your brain the support it needs you’re giving yourself the best chance possible. Remember, if at first you don’t succeed, try again - the important thing is to never give up giving up!

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