I had just arrived at a training facility to trial with a professional squad.
Not only am I late, stressed, and nervous, but I really got to go bad.
Anxiously wandering around, I ask around for the nearest toilet.
To my surprise, it’s on the other side of the training ground.
No chance, I tell myself.
I’m already late.
Besides, I don’t want to appear even more careless.
Demanding myself to calm down, superstitious thoughts begin roaming uncontrollably.
“If I don’t pee now, I’m going to play like shit.”
“If I don’t pee now, I’ll be running around like a headless chicken.”
“If I don’t pee now, I’ll probably catch a bladder infection.”
I decide to take a deep breathe and just let it go.
I’ll just play it off, I mutter to myself.
Well, it turned out to be a great decision.
I had one of the best trials of my entire soccer career.
I was fierce, sharp, and laser-focused, yet I was also calm & collected.
Mindful of every pass, dribble, & play on the field, I felt a greater sense of control.
No overthinking, no fidgetiness, no BS.
I do want to make this clear though.
I can’t attribute my outstanding performance entirely to my full bladder considering I also prepared mentally and physically for this trial.
But I’m certain that it played a factor.
So much that I decided to research into this technique because I had an intuition that I’ve been in similar situations in the past when peeing wasn’t an option, but events turned out surprisingly great as well.
From lengthy corporate meetings to field trips with no restrooms in sight, looking back, I certainly felt more attentive & swift in my thought processes.
According to a study published in Psychological Science, holding in your pee actually aids your ability to control your impulses when making crucial decisions. (1)
In one experiment, participants were asked to either drink 5 cups of water, while others took just a few sips of water.
Then, after roughly 45 minutes—the average timeframe it takes for fluids to fill the bladder—the researchers evaluated participants’ willpower.
Participants were asked to make several choices; each varying between receiving a tiny, but an instant, reward and a larger, but delayed reward.
For instance, they could choose between receiving $16 the following day or $30 in 35 days.
The researchers found that the participants with full bladders were far superior at holding out for the larger reward later.
In another experiment, scientists found that you demonstrate higher cognitive abilities on a full bladder (2)
Researchers tested whether the urge to pee had an impact on a group of students who were asked to put on straight faces and lie about political views.
Both groups were requested to provide their honest beliefs on political topics such as the death penalty and gun control.
Then, after 45 minutes (warranting a full bladder), the participants were then asked to lie to interviewers about the same subjects.
For instance, if one advocated for gun control previously, they would have to support the other side now.
The scientists found that the full-bladder group was not only consistently less nervous, presented more thorough answers, and exhibited more confidence when lying compared to the standard-bladder group, but they also demonstrated superior behavioral and emotional cues when lying, than when telling the truth.
In another study, researchers found that full-bladder folks showed an increased ability to resist impulsive choices when it came to financial planning. (3)
The science behind this is actually fascinating.
The brain region sending impetuous signals is triggered not only for bladder control, but for all sorts of control.
Not urinating activates the region of your brain that helps resist sudden urges—like not peeing yourself.
But because you’re restraining yourself from peeing, it can directly trigger self-restraint from all other kinds of sudden urges.
While you may look ludicrous crossing your legs back and forth and doing the potty dance, exercising some self-control and holding in your pee can be worth the uneasiness when you’ve got an imperative decision to make.
David Cameron, Ex-Prime Minister of the U.K. is a big fan of the full-bladder technique, asserting to its effectiveness in helping him achieve optimal focus and clarity. (4)
Delaying gratification leads to less knee-jerk reactions, more effective problem-solving skills, and actually helps with anxiety issues.
So the next time you’re about to make a decision about your stock portfolio or contemplating between eating that burger or salad for lunch, wait just a bit longer than usual to use the restroom.