Boost Your Self-Control With These 5 Effective Science-Based Strategies

Boost Your Self-Control With These 5 Effective Science-Based Strategies

Self-Control is:

  • The ability to suppress your urges, desires, and reactions.
  • To deal with situations calmly and with temptations responsibly.
  • To train the self patience and endurance.
  • To endure when you face obstacles, fatigue, and pain.
  • A characteristic of the coherent, charismatic personality.

Reasons Why You Need Self-Control:

  • Surely, there is something that you would like to do more of because you know that doing it will improve the quality of your life.
  • You have a sticky habit that you would like to give up or do less of because it’s undermining your health, happiness, or success.
  • It will keep you away from quarreling and having problems with others.
  • You’ll become a very conscious person who’s always aware of what he does and how he acts.
  • Last but not least, wouldn’t be great being an inspiration to the people around you? 🙂

Before we get into how to improve self-control, let us first understand how it works.

We all have that feeling of two people living inside our mind when we’re faced with temptations. Actually, some neuroscientists say that there is two versions of you. One that wants to lose weight by controlling your urges and delaying gratification to protect your long-term goals, and the other just wants the cookie and always seeks instant gratification. when these two versions of you disagree, one version will override the other. Anyway, the wise part of you that refuses the cookie isn’t bad, instead he’s like your mother and only concerned about what matters most.

A large body of Research affirm that willpower is a limited source, and at the same time, it is an improvable skill. It is just like a muscle that get’s tired when you overuse it, and that’s the so-called “Willpower Depletion.” However, just like any other muscle, willpower can be strengthened by regular exercise in the long run.

Now here are the 5 proven strategies for improving self-control.

1. Avoiding temptations:

This is the most easiest and effective strategy to beat your urges and maintain self-control. You need to adopt the “out of sight, out of mind” principle. One recent study, for instance, found that office workers who kept candy in a desk drawer indulged less than when they kept the candy on top of their desks, in plain sight. “People who seem to have iron willpower tend not to expose themselves to as many temptations in the first place” says Christian Jarret, editor of the British Psychological Society Digest. So instead of wasting your willpower by saying “no” every time in the face of temptation, just go blind and your problem is solved!

2. Maintaining Steady Blood-Glucose Levels:

Blood sugar is the fuel of your brain. Some researchers say that the brain cells working hard to maintain self-control consume glucose faster than it can be replenished. Studies show that human subjects who exerted self-control in lab tasks had lower glucose levels than subjects who weren’t asked to do self-control tasks. Another study, for example, found that sugar sweetened lemonade restored willpower strength in depleted individuals, while sugar-free lemonade did not. However, don’t let the term “sugar” fool you! Healthy meals without refined sugar are actually better than sweets for maintaining blood sugar levels. Keep in mind that eating small meals spaced throughout the day is standard dieting advice. Skipping meals, on the other hand, can make your blood sugar drop. Therefore, no glucose means no willpower.

3. Implementation Intention:

This strategy comes in the form of an “if-then plan” that helps people to attain their goal, habit, and behavior modification. It’s a statement that you tell yourself before engaging in a situation where you get tempted. For example, you are watching your alcohol intake, and before going to a party you tell yourself that “if someone offers me a drink, then I’ll ask for club soda with lime.” In addition, one research found that Implementation intention helps improve self-control for individuals whose willpower has been depleted by laboratory tasks. So make sure that you already have a plan to make decisions in the moment without having to draw on your willpower.

4. Start with Easy Self-Control Tasks:

As in any exercise program, don’t push ahead too fast or hard. You can start with small tasks that require discipline, such as making your bed everyday. One study indicates that smokers who practiced self-control for two weeks by avoiding sweets or regularly squeezing a handgrip were more successful at quiting smoking than control subjects who performed two weeks of regular tasks that required no self-control, such as writing in a diary.

5. Use Rewards & Penalties:

A study has shown that participants were better able to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains when they had a self-imposed reward in mind. While giving yourself a reward for good behavior, you should also give yourself a penalty for bad behavior. For instance, If you had an unhealthy meal for launch, punish yourself by eating a big salad for dinner or not snacking for the rest of the day. When Trope and Fishbach (2000)  tested self-imposed penalties experimentally, they found the threat of punishment encouraged people to act in service of their long-term goals.

Tips:

  • It is more effective to focus on a single goal at a time rather than attacking a list of multiple resolutions at once.
  • Don’t be fooled with the thought “If I give in to temptation just this once, I’ll come back stronger afterwards” which research has suggested is not true.
  • Try to be optimistic about your ability to avoid temptations.

With the right guidance and a little practice, you can train your willpower to stay strong in the face of temptation. Once a good habit is in place, you’ll no longer need to draw on your willpower to maintain the behavior. Eventually healthy habits will become routine, and won’t require making decisions at all.


References:

  • What You Need to Know about Willpower: The Psychological science of self-control www.apa.org/helpcenter/willpower.aspx
  • Self-Control: Teaching Students About Their Greatest Inner Strenght. www.apa.org/ed/precollege/ptn/2014/12/self-control.aspx
  • Kelly McGonigal (2013). The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It
  • 8 Ways to Boost Your Self-Control www.psychologytoday.com/blog/open-gently/201505/8-ways-boost-your-self-control
  • Top 10 Self-Control Techniques www.spring.org.uk/2011/04/top-100-self-control-strategies.php

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