Self-control is important because it helps us to avoid negative, unhealthy, or risky behaviors. In addition, it can help us do things that we enjoy and motivate us to reach the goals that are important to us. If you seem to have difficulty reacting to situations in a healthy way, you can find qualified mental health professionals at BetterHelp.com.
Self-control is often referred to as willpower or determination. However, psychologists define self-control as the ability to control one’s behaviors in order to avoid temptations and reach goals. This is also associated with the ability to delay gratification and resist urges to participate in unhealthy or risky behaviors or urges.
Self-control is important for mental health and wellbeing. People who have low self-control often have trouble reaching their goals no matter how much they want them. Whether you have a goal to lose weight, get a promotion, quit smoking, or eating more vegetables, reaching that goal is dependent on your ability to control your behavior.
In addition, people who have better self-control tend to be happier and healthier than those who have poor self-control. A huge component of self-control is the ability to delay gratification. This means that you have to wait to get what you desire.
People can control their actions in order to delay gratification when trying to reach an important goal. For example, the satisfaction associated with achieving that goal is more important than the instant gratification provided by participating in a behavior that makes that goal less likely. Delaying gratification often consists of avoiding short-term desires and pleasures to achieve rewards in the future.
An important study about delayed gratification is called the Marshmallow Test. This test was conducted to look at the importance of delayed gratification and self-control. In the research, children were given a sweet treat (marshmallow or cookie) and told that they could receive a second treat if they wait instead of instantly consuming the sugary snack. The researcher would leave the child and many of the children would immediately consume the treat. Some kids waited until they received a second treat. The ones that were able to relate were more likely to perform better in school than those who gave in to the temptation of the immediate treat.
Based on this research, the hot and cool system was proposed. The hot system is the component of willpower that is emotional and impulsive. The hot system urges us to participate in the things that provide immediate pleasure or gratification.
On the other hand, the cool system is the piece of our willpower that is more logical and thoughtful. This allows us to weigh the consequences of our impulses and actions. This can enable us to resist our impulses in favor of delayed gratification.
Benefits of Good Self-Control
Self-control is important for healthy behaviors because we are constantly making decisions on what to do. What we eat, how much we work, whether or not we exercise, when we go to sleep, and countless other decisions affect our physical and mental health.
When trying to achieve a goal, there are more factors than just willpower. There needs to be a clear goal as well as the desire and motivation to change and work towards that goal. Having a goal that is overly general or unclear can lead to failure. Instead, it is good to have a clear goal in mind. It can also help to have a specific motivation for that goal.
Also, it is important to track your actions and achievements on the way to the larger goal. Setting a goal is important, but you also need to monitor your progress. This can ensure that you do the necessary things in order to reach that goal.
Finally, you have to have self-control. Being able to control your behavior in favor of achieving a goal is important to reaching that goal. There are some important tips that may help you make the most out of the willpower or self-control that you currently have.
Tips for Good Self-Control
There are certain strategies that can help to properly use and strengthen the self-control that you have even though there are limits to self-control.
Avoiding temptations, no matter how small, can help you keep the self-control that you have available. Then, you can save this self-control for when you actually need it. Whether this is a desire to eat sweets, drink alcohol, spend money, or some other negative or undesired behavior, you can avoid the temptation better if you engage in a healthy distraction.
Instead of giving in to the temptation, go for a walk or spend time with friends or family. Take your mind off of it by doing something productive or healthy. Find a hobby or listen to music. Find something that you enjoy and stick with it.
It is also a good idea to adequately plan ahead for events and situations that may be difficult for your self-control to conquer. If you plan ahead, your willpower can be stronger.
Practicing self-control is helpful. Self-control can become diminished and depleted in the short term, so it is important not to use it all up. However, it is also good to engage in behaviors that require a good amount of self-control because it can improve your willpower in the long term.
Another good idea is to keep one goal at a time. This can help you focus and concentrate on achieving that specific goal. If you set many goals at one time, it can be highly ineffective. This can use all of your willpower quickly and reduce the amount of self-control required to reach the goals that are really important to you.
After you turn the behaviors that you need to reach your goal into healthy habits, you will not have to put as much effort and concentration into your self-control. Then, you can use the resources and extra self-control to reach other goals.
Meditation and mindfulness can be positive ways to work out your self-control. Meditation can help you be more self-aware and resist temptations. You can learn how to successfully control your thoughts and impulses.
Finally, a healthy reminder about the consequences of immediate gratification and the effect of the impulse on your goal can go a long way. Poor self-control can negatively impact your health, finances, career, and relationships. Reminding yourself of the importance of self-control and determination is a good idea.
Final Thoughts on Self-Control
Reaching goals is important for our overall well-being and self-confidence. However, genetics do affect our self-control. If you are having a hard time resisting your own impulses and want to strengthen your self-control or ability to engage in healthy behaviors, or if you just want to improve your mental health, therapy may be effective.