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