self-control is the ability to exercise control over oneself, that is, to control one’s emotions, behaviors, desires, or simply to be calm. This capacity allows us to face each moment of life with greater serenity and efficiency.

The person who possesses a high degree of self-control is able to master his thoughts and his actions, which can be beneficial in many situations . For example, in a couple’s conflict or a labour negotiation. Research states that emotional intelligence is key to being able to master this skill.

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

Benefits of self-monitoring

Therefore, the first step in controlling our behavior and our way of thinking is to have a great deal of self-knowledge. In this way, one is able to recognize his emotions and is able to regulate his way of acting .

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

  • Allows you to deal with difficult situations more efficiently
  • Helps you stay calm
  • Helps to have greater clarity of thought
  • Benefits the relationship with others
  • Allows you to manage stress when you feel under pressure
  • Helps you make better decisions
  • Increases concentration capacity
  • 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 weight loss diet and when you go out to dinner at a restaurant you have to make a big effort not to eat the brownie that was served to you for dessert.

Self-control is important for humans, and some studies state that people with greater self-control make more friends, get better grades or have a healthier life because they are less overweight or smoke and drink less alcohol.

Well, you’ll be pleased to know that the ability to control yourself can be improved . So, to help you get the most out of it, in today’s article we’ve put together a list of tips for you to improve your self-control skills – 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 ability to control yourself, because otherwise, you will hardly be able to do so. So have a positive attitude and do your part to better regulate your emotions and behaviour .

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 more control of your attention in order to improve your sports performance or make better decisions, first you must 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 to detect problem situations, which will allow you to react in time.

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

3. Don’t depend on your gross strength

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’re in the office and you’ve just had a conflict with a co-worker, you may want to control the situation by staying in the same room with him and pretending it’s not about you. Perhaps it’s a good alternative to take a few minutes break in the coffee room to rethink and get back to normal rather than forcing yourself to pretend 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 and others’ emotions. Self-control or self-regulation of emotions is one of the skills that emotionally intelligent people master , but which 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 more self-controlled person. That is why we recommend reading the following articles:

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

5. Reduces the attractiveness of temptations

If you’re a big sweet tooth, you may find it hard to resist a piece of chocolate, especially when you think about how it’s going to melt in your mouth.

A famous study called the “marshmallow test” (marshmallow is a candy bar) conducted in the 1960s by psychologist Walter Mischel at Stanford University showed how best to resist the temptation to eat candy. Furthermore, according to the conclusions of the study, the capacity for self-control predicts that a person can achieve success, both academically, emotionally and socially .

The experiment involved a group of 4-year-old subjects, who were given a marshmallow. They were told that if they could wait 20 minutes without eating it, they would be given another one. Those children who could not resist the temptation to put it in their mouths would not be given another marshmallow. The results showed that 2 out of 3 children did not hold out for 20 minutes and ate the candy. After a few years, the researchers found that those who did resist the temptation were more successful in the workplace and academia, as well as socially and emotionally.

But what made some children resist temptation and others not? Well, children who were asked to imagine the candy 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 taste or as a chewy candy had greater difficulty in the test.

6. Modify the environment

Imagine that you are at home and, even though you are on a diet, you feel like eating some cookies. Luckily, you go to the kitchen, open the cupboard and see that they’re gone. In the end, you choose to eat a banana and a yoghurt, 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 like not buying the 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 study conducted in 2006 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 desk instead of more than 6 feet away.

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

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

7. Try the Mindfulness

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

Basically, Mindfulness focuses on attentional and attitudinal work, with which one seeks to be present, in the here and now, in an intentional way, complying with some basic principles and a thought characterized by non-judgment, acceptance, compassion and patience. Still not familiar with the practice of Mindfulness and its benefits?

If you want, you can read our post: “Mindfulness: 8 benefits of full attention”