• Robb G. Best

Sing a Song of Willpower

“Oh, the thigh bone’s connected to the leg bone and the leg bone’s connected to the…” You probably learned some version of this classic spiritual “Dry Bones” in grade school. It’s a clever way to teach basic skeletal anatomy.

Author and songwriter James Weldon Johnson was actually referring to the prophesy in Ezekiel 37:1-14, but for our secular purposes, the point is that all of your bones connect to create a structure that serves as the functional foundation for everything you do. Chiropractors build their entire livelihood on this vary concept.

You throw your back out of joint and it effects your lifting power in a dramatic way. It’s amazing how the simple act of reaching for a bag of groceries in your trunk can compromise your skeletal system and jeopardize your ability to live a normal life for weeks afterwards.

Like the skeletal system, we tend to think about diet, exercise and sleep as three separate systems, each vital to the success of the body.

But there is another way to think about this triumvirate.

We can conceptualize sleep, diet and exercise, not as three separate loops, but as one system supporting what the neuroscientists call the queen of all virtues: willpower.

Willpower is the essential ingredient for virtually everything you do in life. Statistically, it’s the most accurate predictor of wealth, well-being, and happiness. Without willpower, literally and figuratively nothing gets done.

Your willpower is predicated on your ability to generate adequate glucose, the body’s fuel. Glucose works optimally on a diet rich in greens, grains, lean protein and a low intake of sugar. This provides the fuel for exercise, which creates additional glucose storage in the cell walls of the brain, improving your decision quality, stamina and blood flow.

Improved blood flow enhances the sleep cycle, during which, it’s hypothesized, the brain executes a cleansing cycle that rinses away beta amyloids, the so-called “brain plaque” associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Enhanced sleep cycles also contribute to a balanced immune system, essential for maintaining general health.

Proper sleep in turn boosts your brain’s tenacity and focus: key elements in...willpower.

So in short, “Your diet’s connected to your exercise, your exercise is connected to your sleep cycle and your sleep cycle’s connected to your willpower, and your willpower’s connected to it all...”

Maybe not as catchy as “Dry Bones”, but every bit as important.


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