Working Memory, Temptation, and Impulse Control: Can you Train Your Brain?

April 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

I am always looking for ways to control temptation!

Anything that will help me gain more mental strength is a good thing.

I read an interesting article the other day about some research done in the field of addiction

You can get a pretty good overview of that research by reading the following article

Training the Brain to Avoid Temptation

Basically, researchers found that individuals who actively train their working memory

Also show an increase in impulse control



And a greater ability to resist temptation!

This could apply to anyone who struggles with temptations or addictions

From avoiding alcohol to avoiding Twinkies!


So the question is this….

What exactly IS your “Working Memory”






Working memory is memory in action

Being able to access information you need to complete a task

Working memory has a lot to do with staying focused and avoiding distractions

Research has shown a correlation between working memory and impulse control



So what kinds of things strengthen your working memory?

Brain games


Crossword Games

And NOW….I understand

Because these are all things I am terrible at

As a matter of fact, anyone that knows me well knows that I hate puzzles

I have a terrible time with them

Once in college,  we were given an experiment to do in a psychology class

We had to match shapes with their mirror images

I got almost every one of them wrong

The professor even pulled me aside and asked me if I was dyslexic

I’m not BUT I have a really hard time seeing things like that

I’ve never enjoyed word jumbles, crossword puzzles or memory games

And I also am the type of person who loses their keys

Can’t remember their own phone number

And needs to set off  the sound on the car key to find the car!

It does not surprise me in the LEAST that people who have weak memories

Also have weak impulse control and are more prone to temptation!

BUT if research has shown that working on these areas will help me

Then work on it I will!!!

I have decided to embark on an experiment

I am going to actively try to strengthen my working memory

And see if it helps me in the area of weight loss, impulse control (DONUTS) and things of that nature!

So I’m looking for anything that helps train working memory

I found an app called  Lumosity which was free and downloaded that

It is something you work on daily for training working memory

Every day it gives me certain tasks to do and it does not take long

I read another article that says working memory training done AFTER aerobic exercise

Increases the effectiveness of it!

SO….my goal is to combine these two pieces of information and try a little experiment

After I work out, I will do the Lumosity activities

And I will also make an effort to participate in other working memory activities

Such as puzzles, crosswords and things of that nature

Now let it be heard…

I totally HATE these things and do not enjoy them

I am the WORST at puzzles

It’s one of the reasons I would never apply to be on Survivor

Not only would I be terrible in all the physical competitions

I would be awful at the puzzles too!!

(Well there’s also the lack of food, bugs, being hot and showing yourself in a swimsuit on TV)

So yeah… Survivor….

ANYWAY….back to the topic on hand

((See how easily I get distracted??))


SO….if there is a chance that this sort of thing can help curb temptation

Increase Impulse Control

And help me make better decisions in my weight loss journey

Then I’m ALL IN!!!

SO….I am off to purchase a puzzle

And a  Jumbo Crossword Book

If you have any suggestions for other things that help with training working memory

Then let me know!!



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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Melanie April 2, 2014 at 7:23 pm

I find this super interesting. I have been a terrible “squirrel” brain for a while now, but I wasn’t always like that. I used to do puzzle all the time and maybe I need to start doing them again to help. Right now I have been able to fight the impulses for the most part, but there have been a few really bad moments, so like you said, anything that could help is a good thing!
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Beckyanne April 2, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Two fun ways to improve working memory (your kids can do this, too!)

Take short sentences and put the words in alphabetical order. If you’re in the car, spot a word, and see who can put the letters of the word in alphabetical order.

Take a deck of cards. Hold the deck face down in your hand. Start at 100. Turn over the first card. If the card is black, add the value (face cards are worth 10, aces worth 1.) If the card is red, subtract the value. Keep a running total as you work your way through the deck. If your math is right, you end up back at 100.


Anna April 3, 2014 at 9:21 pm

neat tips!


LHA April 3, 2014 at 12:11 am

How interesting! I am terrible at things like jigsaw puzzles, but love to work word puzzles, jumbles, and crosswords. I do definitely have poor impulse control at times, though, and am going to take this to heart and try to work on memory too. Anything that will help me be more successful in squelching those bad impulses should be employed! Thanks for the information.


Hope April 3, 2014 at 2:19 am

There is a game on facebook called Jelly Splash. You do it level by level. I’m on level 75 right now. It’s fun but gets harder as you go along. I spent two weeks getting through level 73. Sooner or later you figure it out and move on to the next level. It really gives your brain a workout. If you can get some of your facebook friends to play it too it shows you who is on which level. Have fun!


Anneli April 3, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Huh! First original weight loss idea I’ve heard! I like puzzles, but I’m not that good at them, and my memory is getting weaker by the minute. I’m going to cook up a little brain strengthening regimen too.



Anna April 3, 2014 at 9:25 pm

I didn’t read the research linked, but I will! Thank you for thinking “outside of the box” to help us all in the quest to demolish addiction. I started a new job where it is crucial to have superior observation skills and I find I have to keep this foremost in my mind, or I tend to mentally wander and get too “self-oriented”/self-conscious. I’m starting to read a book called “Mastermind-How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes” to get me going in the right thinking direction. Everything is really Mind-Body-Spirit….


Kerstin April 4, 2014 at 8:21 am

I agree, this is an interesting approach! I have to say though that I have always been quite good at these mind games and still struggle with temptations all the time. Sigh. But I am also quite rusty and have signed up for Lumosity and done the first assignment, I think this will become a good daily exercise for me! Have you tried Sudoku? That will also make your brains smoke, I always play that on plane rides because I am an nervous flyer and it really helps take the edge of my anxiety. Thanks for sharing this!
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Heather C April 5, 2014 at 1:42 am

Wow- we have SO much in common. Would you mind doing some of these exercises for me?


Samantha Livingston April 7, 2014 at 9:32 pm

So great to see you still working hard and being an encourager Holly! Don’t know if this is *exactly* working memory related but something that’s been helping me stay focused is the 50-minute hour. I set my phone timer for 50 minutes and bribe myself to stay on the task at hand, knowing I can take a 10 min. break afterward. (Helping me for tax work–but I think I’ll use it on laundry-folding, bill-paying and other things I like to avoid!)


robin April 8, 2014 at 10:29 am

I know you most likely don’t want another person depending on you but I really needed to see a new post from you today.


Bob April 9, 2014 at 12:59 pm

That’s so interesting. Thank you so much for the article. I just installed Lumosity on my IPhone. Hopefully it will help me with my temptations and improves my memory. I’m definitely going to do it.


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