Self-control: 7 Psychological Tips To Improve It

This ability is essential to have a good quality of life. How to develop it?

Self-control is one of the most important psychological skills: not only is it a trait in which we stand out for having developed it much more than the rest of the animals; In addition, it allows us to prioritize long-term goals over those that give us immediate satisfaction, which is essential to be able to live in society.

Here we will see what it is and what are the characteristics of self-control and how it benefits us.

Recommended article: “Emotional Control Techniques: 10 effective strategies”

What is self-control?

The self is the ability to exercise control over oneself, ie, to control one ‘s emotions, behaviors, desires, or just be quiet. This ability allows us to face each moment of life with greater serenity and efficiency.

The person who has high self-control is able to dominate his thoughts and his way of acting, which can be beneficial in many situations. For example, in a relationship conflict or a labor negotiation. Research affirms that emotional intelligence is key to being able to master this skill.

The first step to control our behavior and our way of thinking is to have great self-knowledge. In this way, one is able to recognize their emotions and is able to regulate their way of acting.

Benefits of this skill set

But what are the benefits of self-control? Self-control brings many advantages, such as the following:

  • Allows you to face difficult situations more efficiently
  • Help keep calm
  • Helps to have greater clarity of thought
  • Benefits the relationship with others
  • Allows you to manage stress when you feel under pressure
  • Help make better decisions
  • It increases the ability to concentrate
  • Better self esteem
  • Improves emotional well-being

Tips to improve self-control

Having self-control is not always easy: imagine if you are on a diet to lose weight and when you go out to dinner at a restaurant you have to make a great effort not to eat the brownie that was served to you for dessert.

Self-control is important to human beings, and some studies claim that people with greater self-control make more friends, get better grades, or live healthier lives because they are less overweight or smoke and drink less alcohol.

Well, you will like to know that the capacity for self-control can be improved. For this reason, and so that you can get the most out of it, in today’s article we have prepared a list of tips to improve your ability to self-control. Take note!

1. You should know that self-control can be improved

If you have difficulty controlling your behavior, the first thing you should know is that it is possible to improve your capacity for self-control, because otherwise, you will hardly be able to do it. So have a positive attitude and do your part to better regulate your emotions and your behavior.

2. Be aware and define what you want to control

It is essential that you are aware of what you want to control and that you know what you want to change, because if you are not aware of your current behaviors and routines it is difficult to practice self-control. If you want to lose weight, first of all you must know what you eat daily. On the other hand, if you want greater control of attention to improve your sports performance or make better decisions, you must first know what you are doing wrong and you must know your negative habits, those that prevent you from being more efficient. In addition, being aware helps you detect problematic situations, which will allow you to react in time.

Recommended article: ” Attention control in sport: attentional approaches “

3. Don’t depend on your brute force

There are complex situations that are not always easy to control. People have a limit, and self-control does not mean that we have to fight against the current. For example, if you are in the office and you have just had a conflict with a coworker, you may want to control the situation by staying in the same room as him and pretending it is not your business. Maybe it’s a good alternative to take a few minutes of rest in the coffee room to reconsider and return to normal instead of forcing yourself to appear that you have everything under control.

4. Be emotionally intelligent

Emotional Intelligence (EI), a concept made popular by Daniel Goleman, is the ability to identify, understand, and regulate one’s own emotions and those of others. Self-control or self-regulation of emotions is one of the skills that emotionally intelligent people master, but it cannot be understood without mastering the other elements that make up this type of intelligence, for example, self-knowledge or empathy. Learning and acquiring emotional intelligence skills makes you a person with greater self-control. That is why we recommend reading the following articles:

  • What is emotional intelligence? Discovering the importance of emotions
  • The 10 benefits of emotional intelligence

5. Reduce the appeal of temptations

If you are one of those who like a lot of sweets, it can be difficult for you to resist a piece of chocolate, especially when you think about how it will melt in your mouth.

A famous study called “the marshmallow test” (marshmallows are the sweets also called clouds) carried out in the 60s by psychologist Walter Mischel at Stanford University, showed the best way to resist the temptation to eat sweets . In addition, according to the conclusions of the study, the capacity for self-control predicts that a person can achieve success, both academic, emotional and social.

The experiment involved a group of 4-year-old subjects, who were given a marshmallow. It was suggested to them that if they could wait 20 minutes without eating it, they would be given another. Those children who did not resist the temptation to put it in their mouths would not receive another cloud. The results showed that 2 out of 3 children could not hold out for 20 minutes and ate the treat. After a few years, the researchers found that those who did resist the temptation were more successful in both work and academics as well as socially and emotionally.

But what made some children resist temptation and others not? For the children who were asked to imagine the treat as an image or an abstract figure (for example, a cloud in the sky) were more successful in resisting temptation. In contrast, those children who imagined the candy for its flavor or for being a chewy candy had greater difficulties in the test.

6. Modify the environment

Imagine that you are at home and, although you are on a diet, you want to eat some cookies. Luckily, you go to the kitchen, open the closet and see that they are finished. In the end, you choose to eat a banana and yogurt, which, after all, are healthier. Having negative stimuli within your reach is not a good option, so if you want to have more self-control, you can make decisions such as not buying cookies.

Imagine another example: You are studying in your room and you have a bowl of candy in front of you, obviously you will eat more candy if you have it on your desk than if you don’t. Therefore, modifying the environment is a good strategy for self-control. A 2006 study found that a group of secretaries ate more candy when the bowl they were in was clear instead of opaque, and when it was on their work table instead of more than 6 feet away.

Did you know that the colors in a room can affect your mood and your impulses to buy?

If this interests you, you can visit our article: ” Psychology of color: meaning and curiosities of colors “

7. Try Mindfulness

The Mindfulness is a practice widely used today and research shows that helps improve self – control and emotional management, especially in stressful situations.

Basically, Mindfulness focuses on an attentional and attitudinal work, with which it seeks to be present, in the here and now, intentionally, complying with basic principles and a thought characterized by not judging, accepting, being compassionate and patient. Still do not know the Mindfulness practice and its benefits?

If you wish, you can read our post: ” Mindfulness: 8 benefits of mindfulness “

Bibliographic references:

  • Diamond, A. (2013). Executive functions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64: pp. 135-168.
  • Fujita, K .; Han, H. (2009). Moving Beyond Deliberative Control of Impulses: The Effect of Construal Levels on Evaluative Associations in Self-Control Conflicts. Psychological Science. 20 (7): pp. 799-804.
  • Koechlin, E .; Ody, C .; Kouneiher, F. (2003). The architecture of cognitive control in the human prefrontal cortex. Science. 302 (5648): pp. 1181-1185.
  • Rosselli, M .; Matute, E. & Ardila, A. (2010). Neuropsychology of Child Development. Mexico DF: Modern Manual.
  • Willems, Ye; Dolan, CV (2018). Genetic and Environmental Influences on Self-Control: Assessing Self-Control with the ASEBA Self-Control Scale. Behavior Genetics, 48 ​​(2): pp. 135-146.

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