3 Tools to Practice Delayed Gratification

Delayed gratification is the ability to delay an impulse for an immediate reward (like eating junk food) to receive a more favourable reward later (like losing 5kg). For example:

  • Healthy eating when unhealthy options are readily available.
  • Completing workouts when you’re not motivated.
  • Being patient with progress.
  • Portion control.
  • Getting out of bed when the alarm goes off.

Practising delayed gratification can be challenging, but is essential for successful long-term weight management.

  • Establishing healthy habits.
  • Improving self-control.
  • Developing self-discipline, resilience and adaptability.
  • Creating a positive mindset focused on long-term well-being.
  • Achieving long-term success.

Please join me for this 16 min live recording, where I offer 3 practical ways you can practice and improve, delayed gratification.

Or for a brief outline, read on…

1: Write a “Benefits List”.

After listening to a podcast with Dr Matthew Walker (the world’s no. 1 sleep scientist) explaining how long caffeine stays in your system, I was alarmed. FYI it’s approx. 10 hours!

And further, research shows that a single cup of coffee (200mg caffeine) at night, will reduce the quality of your deep sleep by 20%!!! So you may sleep the whole night through, but you won’t be getting good quality deep sleep.

For the benefit of my health, the afternoon cup of coffee (which I really looked forward to each day) had to go.

I started by making a list of all the benefits I would gain from giving up my cup of coffee:

  • Better quality sleep:
    Recent studies suggest that poor sleep contributes to abnormal levels of beta-amyloid protein in the brain, which in turn leads to the amyloid plaques found in the Alzheimer’s brain – scary!
  • More intrinsic energy (rather than relying on artificial energy).
  • More room to drink water (which I was struggling to fit in).

Then each afternoon at 2.50 pm (10 mins before I would usually have my cup of coffee) an alarm would go off on my phone and I would read the list I had saved in my notes.

Foregoing my afternoon cup of coffee was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be as I kept reminding myself of the long-term benefits.

Often we only consider the immediate benefits when faced with an impulse however, if we regularly remind ourselves of the long-term benefits, it can quickly alter how we feel in that moment.

2: Use a timer.

Using a timer as a tool for delayed gratification provides structure, accountability, and progress tracking. It empowers you to make conscious choices, build patience, and align your actions with your long-term goals.

  • By committing to wait for a specific period before indulging, you give yourself time to reconsider your decision and evaluate whether the choice aligns with your long-term goals.
  • It helps you resist impulsive actions and gives you a chance to think about the consequences of your choices.
  • You become more aware of your feelings and impulses, which allows you to make conscious decisions rather than reacting on impulse.
  • When you know you only have to wait for a specific duration, the temptation becomes more manageable. It’s easier to resist the urge when you have a clear endpoint in sight.
  • You can set incremental waiting periods, gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable with delayed rewards and tracking your progress.
  • Allows you to practice mindfulness in the present moment and brings greater awareness to your feelings, desires, and impulses.
  • Using a timer consistently helps form positive habits. It becomes a routine and part of your behaviour, making it easier to implement delayed gratification in other areas of your life.

3: Practice waiting in every day situations.

Using everyday situations to practice waiting is an excellent strategy for strengthening your ability to practice delayed gratification:

  • Delaying purchases – When you want to buy something impulsively, give yourself a waiting period before making the purchase. This can help you determine if it’s a genuine need or simply a fleeting desire.
  • Think Before Responding – In conversations or discussions, take a moment to process the information before responding. This prevents impulsive reactions and allows you to give a more thoughtful response.
  • Delaying Digital Gratification – If you receive a notification on your phone or computer, practice waiting a few minutes before checking it. This can help reduce distractions and increase productivity.
  • Sleep on It – When faced with significant decisions, give yourself time to sleep on it. Delaying the final decision until the next day allows you to think more clearly and avoid impulsive choices.
  • Task Prioritisation – Instead of tackling easy or less important tasks first, practice delaying the gratification of quick wins and focus on important, high-impact tasks that contribute to your long-term goals and productivity.
  • Procrastination Management: When tempted to procrastinate, practice waiting for a few minutes before giving in to distractions. This can help you regain focus and avoid the instant gratification of non-essential tasks.

The pain of discipline is nothing like the pain of disappointment.

Justin Langer

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