At least, according to a revealing long-term study by Stanford University on personality.
It started in the late 1960s at the Bing Nursery School, on the campus of Stanford University.
In total, 653 kids were individually taken into a “game room” at the nursery. The room itself was small and had a desk and chair for the child to sit at. When seated, each child was given one marshmallow.
Then, the researchers made the same offer to each kid:
- Eat the marshmallow right away.
- Wait to eat the marshmallow, while the researcher stepped out of the room. When the researcher returned, the child could then have a second marshmallow. Eating the first marshmallow, before the researcher returned, would automatically forfeit the second.
As you can imagine, most kids had trouble with this one. The video footage of the study is telling… kids closing their eyes… others intently staring at the marshmallow… some pretending it wasn’t there… yet others would play hide and seek with the desk to distract themselves until the researcher returned.
Around seventy percent of the children could not resist temptation and never got their second marshmallow. The remaining thirty percent somehow found a way to resist.
Here’s Where Things Get Really Interesting
Walter Mischel, the psychology professor at Stanford in charge of the study, followed up on the 653 kids a decade later.
He found that the kids who could not wait for the second marshmallow all seemed to have behavioral problems. They couldn’t seem to focus. They had lower S.A.T scores. They struggled emotionally and had trouble dealing with stressful situations. They also had trouble maintaining relationships.
Those who could delay gratification reported almost the exact opposite, including S.A.T scores that were 210 points higher on average.
Fast-forward another 15 years: Mischel continued his follow-up of the original participants, now in their thirties.
Again, those who couldn’t wait for the second marshmallow reported being unhappy with their lives. Many bounced from job to job. They had huge amounts of financial stress. Had trouble dealing with their emotions and achieving their goals. Had trouble maintaining relationships. Some even reported that they’d battled with drug addictions.
In comparison, the folks with self-control reported more fulfilling lives. Had their finances under control. They had satisfying careers and great, long-lasting relationships. And on average, they earned higher incomes.
So what’s the takeaway here? Delaying gratification is definitely a key to success.
Running on impulse 24/7 is a surefire recipe for disaster.
Live for the Moment?
While it certainly can be fun to just “go with the flow” and live for the moment, it is definitely a short-sighted life philosophy to live by.
Sure, there are times when you should hang loose and choose the path of instant gratification. But it should be the exception, not the rule.
As the Jesuit priest and philosopher Baltazar Gracian once said, “Let the first impulse pass. Wait for the second.”
So if you’ve been having trouble getting what you want out of life, take a hard look at yourself. Take a self-inventory and see where you’ve been choosing instant gratification versus the “right” thing to do.
For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, do you choose to eat junk food instead of what you know you should be eating? Or do you skip out on going to the gym in exchange for watching the latest reality show or hanging out with friends? You get the idea.
This awareness alone will help you develop self-control.
Learn to Change Your Focus
So exactly how did the kids who avoided temptation do it?
Simple: by changing their focus. It’s not that they somehow lost their desire for the marshmallow. They just changed their focus and “forgot” about it, until the researcher returned.
Years later, Mischel tested this theory, by recreating the experiment. Except this time, he taught the kids a simple way to change their mental focus towards the marshmallow.
The kids were told to pretend that the marshmallow wasn’t real. That it was only a picture surrounded by an imaginary frame.
This simple change in perspective dramatically increased the percentage of children who displayed self-control.
And it’s a testament to how important it is to learn how to focus your mind’s attention on what you want.
So tell me, have you ever battled with self-control? Did you find a way around it and delay instant gratification? Do you know someone who could turn his or her life for the better if he or she could just exercise a little self-control? If you do, please tell me about it in the comments below…
Most dieters will agree…
One of the hardest parts of sticking to any healthy eating plan is dealing with cravings.
That is, until now.
Losing weight has never been easier, with what some are calling the “Imagination Diet.”
As it turns out, the key to eliminating the great temptation of a craving is to eat as much of the foods you crave – in your own mental fantasy.
The researchers wanted to find out if “imagined habituation” (thinking something over and over again – kind of like a habit) could play a role in curbing appetite.
Habituation is similar to the principle of diminishing returns. For example, have you ever craved chocolate… and then caved in?
Eating one piece of chocolate tastes great and exciting; but as you continue eating more… the fourth and fifth pieces don’t have the same level of pleasure as the first. With each bite that follows, your desire for the chocolate drops. That’s habituation.
It’s why you can get “sick” of eating too much of the same food. After a while, it becomes commonplace and loses its appeal.
In order to determine exactly how the imagination can affect how much we eat, the researchers divided the subjects into two groups.
The first group was told to imagine eating 30 M&M chocolate candies and putting three quarters into a slot.
The second group was told to visualize putting 30 quarters into a slot and only eating 3 M&Ms.
Then, the team of researchers got a large bowl of M&Ms and asked the subjects to have as many as they wanted. This was done under the pretense that they were doing a “taste test.”
After the subjects ate the M&Ms, the researchers weighed the bowl to see how many grams were consumed. This was done without the subjects knowing.
The Results – Eating in Your Imagination Curbs Appetite
It turns out that eating in your mind does in fact make you eat less in the real world.
The group that imagined eating 30 M&Ms ate half as many as the group that imagined eating only 3.
And in case you think this was a fluke – it wasn’t.
The researchers tried this experiment on four more separate occasions with different groups of people.
The ratio stayed the same. Those that imagined eating more of the M&Ms ate 50% less than those who imagined eating only three candies.
According to Carey Morewedge, the lead researcher in this study, “Merely thinking of a food does increase our appetite for the food. But if we perform the mental imagery that would accompany its actual consumption, this kind of thought actually decreases our desire for the food.”
How this can Help You
This recent research confirms what we in the hypnosis community have known all along: Your mind is the most powerful ally when it comes to losing weight and getting fit.
Because imagining something in your mind creates the same physical responses in your body as if you were experiencing that thing in real life… Pretty Crazy!
So next time you find yourself craving that burger… or that piece of chocolate… imagine eating it a few times first. Then, see if you find yourself eating less when you do indulge.
Let me know what happens. I’d love to hear how this little insight works out for you.
If you’re like most folks, you know that hypnosis can be an effective tool at helping you reach a wide variety of goals.
But how powerful is hypnosis really?
A recent article in The New York Times , published April 2011, sheds some light on the subject.
According to the article, Kirsten Ritchie used hypnosis to heal herself after a MAJOR surgery.
Earlier this year, Kirsten had a plum-sized tumor removed from her brain. As you can guess, it was a pretty invasive surgery.
What surprised her neurosurgeon the most wasn’t the size of the tumor. It was Kirsten’s speedy recovery and the very little amount of medication she needed before and after the surgery.
Instead of waking up groggy and in pain after having the tumor removed, she felt “alert and awesome.” In fact, she even ate a full dinner the same night as the surgery and went home in two days.
How’d she do it?
Prior to the surgery she’d gone to four hypnosis sessions at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine. There she addressed her fear of the surgery.
In addition to that, Kirsten also practiced self-hypnosis daily.
Here’s another story about the power of hypnosis:
“I recently had elective surgery for the first time and was very nervous about it. Once I began to listen to Dr. Ginandes, I felt less anxious in general and I was able to sleep peacefully every night. When the big day came, I took my CDs with me in the waiting room – it was wonderful to be able to feel peaceful and calm during that time!
After the surgery I listened to the final session and healed so quickly that I did not even need to take any pain medication. The CDs were the most wonderful tool to get me through this stressful time – from beginning to end. I would highly recommend them to anyone going through a surgical procedure, whether it is your first time or not.”
- J. Tyler, Image Coach, Co-founder of Fabulous Over Forty
It’s no surprise here that hypnosis helped Kirsten and J. Tyler recover so quickly. After all, hypnosis has been used for more than two centuries.
In certain cases, hypnosis has been used in place of anesthesia for certain surgeries – with amazing success.
It’s why many respected hospitals, such as the Cleveland Clinic, Mount Sinai Medical Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in New York are welcoming it with open arms.
A Harvard Medical School study done in 2000* found that patients who receive hypnosis during surgery required less medication afterwards. But that’s not all – the patients had fewer complications and the procedures went faster than patients who did not receive hypnosis.
The Power of Your Unconscious Mind
If you don’t know already, your unconscious mind is pretty much “at the helm” when it comes to creating your experiences and your reality.
Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Stephen M. Kosslyn puts it best: “Top-down processes override sensory, or bottom-up information. People think that sights, sounds and touch from the outside world constitute reality. But the brain constructs what it perceives based on past experience.”
Simply put, your reality and the way you experience it is created by your brain and the unconscious.
It’s what explains things like the placebo effect.
Dr. Amir Raz, professor of neuroscience at Columbia University, studied the nature of this very phenomenon.
His study used the Stroop effect.
Rather than go through a lengthy explanation, let’s see the Stroop effect in action right now.
You’re going to read a series of two words in just a moment. What I want you to do, is to identify (as quickly as you can) the color that the word is written in.
Here we go:
How’d you do?
If you’re like most people, it probably took you a second or two to identify the correct colors as red and blue.
The reason this is challenging – especially when you have to answer quite a few in a row – is that reading is deeply ingrained in the mind. So it might take a few seconds to identify the word GREEN (colored in red) as the color red.
Here’s how this was used in the study…
Dr. Raz split the subjects into two groups. One group was hypnotized and given the posthypnotic suggestion to see the words on the screen as gibberish. The other group was not under the influence of the posthypnotic suggestion.
The subjects entered a brain scanner, where the Stroop effect test took place. For the group who received the posthypnotic suggestion, the Stroop effect was null and void. They identified the correct colors instantly. The second group took a lot longer to identify the correct colors shown.
Dr. Raz then analyzed the brain scans and found that those under the influence of the posthypnotic suggestion had somehow shutdown the visual area of the brain that is used to identify words and language.
Use your mind to accomplish your goals
If the mind is so powerful to be able to act as an anesthetic during major surgeries… help patients heal faster, with less need for drugs… and able to shut down major areas of the brain at will… then the sky’s the limit when it comes to achieving your goals.
All it takes is giving yourself the right “programming” and overriding the beliefs that are creating limitation.
That said, I’d love to hear about your experiences with hypnosis and the results you got. Have you ever used hypnosis to help an ailment or disease? Any occasions where you used it to achieve your goals faster than you thought possible?
*Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2000 May;18(2):327-38, x. The use of hypnosis in emergency medicine. Peebles-Kleiger MJ, Menninger School of Psychiatry and Mental Health Sciences, Menninger Clinic, Topeka, KS, USA
* Raz, A., Kirsch, I., Pollard, J., & Nitkin-Kaner, Y. (2006). Suggestion reduces the Stroop Effect. Psychological Science, 17(2), 91-95