simplyenjoy


Tips for increasing self-control
September 18, 2011, 8:05 pm
Filed under: Behavior, Mind

self-control: the exertion of willpower in the interest of long-term objectives.

ego depletion: activities that require mastery or otherwise tax our self-control render us less able to resist temptation in subsequent activities, even if the two tasks are unrelated.

The May/June 2011 edition of Scientific American Mind published “Control yourself!” an article aiming to teach the ins and outs of self-control. Whether you are trying to lose weight, quit smoking, stop sticking your foot in your mouth in social situations or to clean your home room by room, self-control is a constant variable in all of these problems.

Most recent research has found that self-control is a battle between two emotional systems: our impulses and our powers of reflection, according to the article by Wilhelm Hofmann and Malte Friese. This dual-system model is neatly illustrated through the devil on one shoulder, angel on the other shoulder scenario. The two systems compete for control over some want or need. It’s easy to ignore a weaker impulse than a stronger one, for example, grocery shopping on an empty stomach without overspending or buying junk food. It’s easier to engage your reflective system if you clearly recognize undesirable behavior and feel a strong connection to long-term goals and your working memory.

The fast facts of the article:

1. Two different information-processing systems in the brain battle for control. Impulses = immediate gratification. Reason = long-term objectives.

2. Stress, emotional strain, alcohol and other drains on cognitive resources, such as working memory, render us less able to withstand temptation.

Ego-depletion (definition above) seems the enemy of self-control. This term explains why one can be patient, helpful and collaborative at work, but short-tempered, exhausted and prone to agitation at home. Or after six hours taking tests or sitting in class, we feel weaker to resist eating an entire bag of popcorn and two slices of pie in front of the television at night.

10 tips for increasing self-control

1. Become aware of the risks and long-term negative consequences of undesirable behavior.

2. Increase your personal engagement by, for example, telling friends about your goals.

3. Transform abstract overarching objectives into intermediate steps or milestones.

4. Take pleasure in achieving partial successes and reaching intermediate milestones.

5. Form “if, then” resolutions to deal with critical situations.

6. Replace old bad habits with new ones.

7. Change your impulses by learning to associate the mere sight of temptations with negative stimuli.

8. Identify situations that pose a particular risk and avoid them as much as possible.

9. Train your working memory.

10. Plan enough breaks and relaxation periods to prevent depletion of your mental resources.

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