How the Secret Power of Time can Transform Your Health and Your Life
Life is temptation. We are continually seduced, pressured and influenced in all facets of life. New research by famed social psychologist, Philip Zimbardo, PhD tells us that our perspective on time is perhaps the most important influence on how we resist or fail to resist temptation.
In the famous Marshmallow Experiment conducted by Dr. Zimbardo’s colleague, Walter Mischel, PhD, children were offered one marshmallow immediately, but if they waited a few minutes they could have two marshmallows. When tracked 14 years later children who waited and thereby delayed gratification were happier and more successful in nearly every measurement of success. They had SAT scores an average of 250 points higher, were more cooperative, self-reliant and confident. The children who gave into temptation and ate the marshmallow were more likely to be moody, indecisive and envious.
All people are either Past, Present or Future oriented. We are all a combination of these types, but each of us is more heavily weighted in certain areas. The children who waited to eat the marshmallow were Future Focused. Those who ate the marshmallow immediately were Present Focused.
The most important things to teach kids (and adults) are:
- Learning to delay gratification
- Saying no or later to all temptation
- Becoming aware of the consequences of your actions
Past, Present and Future orientations are further broken down into 6 distinct Time Perspective (TP) Factors. Visit www.thetimeparadox.com to take a short test to learn your time perspective.
Time Perspective (TP) Factors
1. Past TP Focus on Positives
These people are nostalgic. They keep scrapbooks and often think of the past as the “good old days”.
2. Past TP Focus on Negatives
These people dwell on past failures and have regrets.
3. Present TP – Hedonism
These people live in the now – seeking pleasure and immediate gratification. Think of sex, drugs and rock and roll.
4. Present TP – Fatalism
These people live in the now, yet believe they have no power over their lives and that nothing changes, so there is really not much point in trying.
5. Future TP – Life Goal-Oriented
These people focus on future life goals to keep them motivated. They know that resisting temptation today is likely to increase happiness tomorrow.
6. *Future TP – Transcendental – Life After Death of the Mortal Body
These people due to religious beliefs have a different set of motivations.
We each have learned biases that influence our time perspective including our geography, climate, culture, religion, social class, educational level, political and economic stability as well as the role models we surround ourselves with – our family and friends.
Dr. Zimbardo and his colleagues determined that the healthiest and most successful personality type is future focused, with secondary emphasis on present hedonism and tertiary emphasis on past positive. People with this personality type delay present gratification in order to pursue long-term goals which leads to a more fulfilling and sustainable happiness. However, in order to enjoy life and to have the energy to pursue life goals, Dr. Zimbardo tells us we mustn’t be too future focused and must allow ourselves to enjoy life’s pleasures. We also need to be able to look back, focusing on the positive. What does this have to do with diet and health?
When we make a dietary change, we don’t see results immediately. We must trust in the process, allowing time for weight loss to occur and for our health to improve. This indicates that we must be future focused. Unfortunately, most diet plans in the U.S. cater to a present focused mindset as most people seek immediate gratification. This is why we see so many diet pills, diet shakes and the dramatic rise of gastric bypass surgery. Indeed, most people give up on diets and in many areas of their lives almost before they have even begun.
We are often tempted to eat foods that might be unhealthy or fattening or that might conflict with our values of compassion and environmental responsibility. Yet, we fall victim to temptation. The temptation to indulge in delicious, yet unhealthy food is powerful and, along with sex and love is one of our most powerful drives.
Rather than suggest we resist gratification altogether and eat only plain tofu and bean sprouts, completely depriving ourselves of our present minded hedonistic impulses, I suggest that when switching to a low-fat whole foods plant-based diet, we must initially resist the temptation for old favorites. By delaying present focused desire for burgers and cheesecake, we discover that new whole plant foods actually bring more pleasure, along with health benefits and deeper satisfaction, while also enriching our lives with meaning! This Secret Power of Time holds true with our diet, with relationships and in so many aspects of our lives and is the very cornerstone of a happy, fulfilling life.
Next time you feel tempted to eat unhealthy food:
- Delay, then say no or later
- Become aware of the consequences to your figure, your health, animals and the planet
- Indulge in a healthier, more compassionate version (i.e. veggie burger instead of cow burger; fresh fruit instead of cheesecake)
It takes more effort to be future oriented, yet this shift yields far greater rewards.
Yours in Health, Love & Compassion,