How To: Hold in Your Pee to Avoid Making Impulsive Decisions

Hold in Your Pee to Avoid Making Impulsive Decisions

While you may look ridiculous doing the potty dance and crossing your legs back and forth, holding it in can be worth the discomfort when you've got an important decision to make.

While it's well known that we make more impulsive decisions when under visceral states, such as when we're hungry, Dr. Mirjam Tuk (while on the faculty of behavioral sciences at the University of Twente, Netherlands) and her colleagues wondered if the a visceral state associated with inhibition instead of drive, such as holding one's bladder, might spill over (no pun intended) into other decisions we make.

(1) Dr. Mirjam Tuk, (2) University of Twente Campus, Netherlands. Images via Imperial College, London, Universiteit Twente 3D Map

She theorized that ignoring one's impulse to pee might shift the entire the mind's tendency to make other impulsive decisions. To prove this theory, they tested several individuals' decision-making abilities while under the influence of a full bladder. Participants first drank glass after glass of water, then sat down to tackle tasks. After, the individuals were asked if they wanted to receive a small amount of cash on the spot, or if they wanted to wait a month for a larger payment.

Interestingly, those who felt the strongest need to pee chose to wait it out. Those in the group who hadn't ingested any water were more impulsive, jumping on the offer for less money immediately.

Image via Shutterstock

This experiment indicates that, when faced with the urge to urinate, we are more capable of reeling in our impulses. The visceral drive to immediately relieve ourselves is a strong one, but also helpful.

Typically, visceral feelings such as hunger lead us to make more irrational, spur of the moment choices because we cannot avoid their pull. When our bladders are full, however, we behave in an opposite manner. Impulses no longer tempt us because we're actively working to restrain our urges.

Control Is Key in Making Better Decisions

Have you ever had to sit through an extremely long car ride with no bathroom breaks? As someone who can never make it through trips without at least two pit stops, I know firsthand how hard it is to keep your bladder under control. Yet it's exactly that control that helps us make better decisions.

Image via The Privacy Council

Think about it this way: what would happen if you simply gave in and stopped holding it? Peeing in public isn't exactly socially acceptable. Because we understand that there are consequences, we exert a great amount of effort in an attempt to keep ourselves from losing control.

Image via Shutterstock

That same control works in our favor when making decisions while needing to pee. We are already restraining ourselves, in a sense, so it's easy for our minds to apply that control while facing different options. As a result, we're more likely to choose the smarter, better alternatives rather than ones that excite us immediately.

After all, if you've turned down one impulse, what's another few?

But Isn't Holding It Harmful?

Yes, resisting the urge to pee and keeping your bladder full can have detrimental side effects if you take it too far. If you frequently delay nature's call, you could over-inflate your bladder. Our bladders are designed to expand and contract based on our body's needs, but if you constantly keep yours stretched to the max, it might one day become unable to snap back into shape.

Image via Readwave

So, if you're facing a tricky decision, try waiting until you feel the need to pee. The control you utilize to keep your bladder in line will help you make a less impulsive choice. Otherwise, keep hitting the bathroom as needed!

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Cover image via Sofitel Hotel/Queenstown, NZ


Might be a good strategy for Poker night...

This is the entire concept of fasting, that by staying hungry for a while, holding on and controlling the urge to eat, helps in overall self control from doing and saying anything negative. Bringing about better self control for better long term results or goals. Being patient, holdiong off impulses and making better thought out decisions.

Hunger seems to be a tricky one for most, though. We make worse decisions while grocery shopping on an empty stomach, and eat considerably worse when finally sitting down to a meal after a day of hunger. Perhaps some of our urges are just too overwhelming to hold back after a long period of time?

I'm responding to the comment about fasting/starvation as a means of impulse control. The article here (about impulse control via denying the need to urinate) actually says that researchers found hungry people, unlike people who need to urinate, are more impulsive, not less so. In any case, I know people who fast regularly, and it makes them irritable, weak, muddle-headed, and distracted. Sometimes they suddenly pass out in the middle of whatever they're doing. More than once I've seen people come close to coma because of low blood-sugar. Hypoglycemia can kill. Again, I'm wondering what it is about our culture that makes people obsess over denying their bodies the basic things we need to stay alive? What's next: Better Living Through Hypoxia? Our culture is over-indulgent in many ways. Curbing those excesses requires facing the reasons for them head-on, not denying every basic genuine need we can control. I wish I could get this through to my friends who believe that they must live on less than 1000 calories a day! The same goes for people who use these other forms of asceticism regularly: dehydration; sleep-deprivation; self-mutilation with razor-blades and the like; extreme over-exercise; ritual self-whipping (using a flogging device to scourge oneself or having a loved one administer whippings); exposure to thermal stress (deliberately inducing either hypothermia or heat exhaustion); bulimia; etc. - I'm weary of seeing it all. It says, "Look how self-disciplined I am! Look how strong I am! Look how virtuous I am!" To me, it says, "Look how I wear my self-loathing like a badge of honour!" I'm not impressed, I'm disgusted.

These days I seem to find articles recommending holding back from urinating, everywhere I turn. People say that it teaches self-discipline, helps one make wise decisions, improves one's social status, makes one sexually desirable, and even helps to expiate "sin". Well, not to, erm, rain on the parade, but I had to help nurse my best friend back from the brink of a most ignominious death this February because she found that her second job required her to endure very long intervals w/o peeing. She has very strong pelvic floor muscles and because she CAN control it, she DID. She wound up with, among other things, Hydronephrosis and an extremely severe kidney infection; her right kidney stopped functioning for awhile and her left wasn't doing too well. She lay abed for over a week delirious with fever and for the most part unaware that I was sitting at her bedside alternating between tears and anger. For the next two months she recovered slowly. She has been warned, however, that the habit of holding in urine could one day result in her death. So, I think I would strongly recommend that people seeking to learn impulse control do so by learning meditation, relaxation techniques, taking courses in improving financial acumen, and the like, not by spending one's work-day sitting on a full bladder. Nature gave us the urges we have for a reason: SURVIVAL. Most of my friends can calmly work with a full bladder, even for many hours, but in my case I keep thinking of my best friend nearly dying and it makes me want to cry. That's not a good state to be in to get work done and budgets planned. People, please respect your bodies.

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