Taking Care of Yourself

12 Ways to Boost Self-Control

Amanda Page Jul 18, 2013 (updated Jan 23, 2014)
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A new study reveals that people with good self-control, or an ability to refrain from acting on impulses, are happier.  Additionally, it found that self-control is linked to healthy weight management, academic success, financial success, and healthier relationships.  Here are some ways you can boost your self-control and start reaping the benefits.  

 

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Control glucose levels
Control glucose levels
Low blood glucose levels are associated with low self-control – particularly when it comes to cravings.  Blood glucose levels drop when high-glycemic foods, such as sweets, are consumed, because they are quickly absorbed by your body - leading to a sugar rush.  Avoiding high-glycemic foods will help stabilize blood sugar levels, plus curb your sweet tooth cravings. 
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Abolish temptation
Abolish temptation
Identify your weaknesses and establish a no-tolerance policy to resist giving in to them.  Can’t control your wine and cheese habit?  Avoid those aisles at the grocery store, or realize that you’re a lot better off if you keep them out of your house.  By removing the temptation, you will be less likely to surrender your will power.  
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Plan for temptation
Plan for temptation
When you can’t avoid a temptation, be prepared to handle it ahead of time and pre-commit to overcoming it.  Tagging along on a shopping trip?  Take only a limited amount of money and leave your charge card at home.  This can be difficult because people generally like leaving their options open.  But if you are disciplined with yourself, you are less likely to have regrets later.  
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A helping hand
A helping hand
A recent study revealed that people who struggle with temptation could boost their self-control by surrounding themselves with strong-willed people.   Social interactions motivate our desires and help keep us in check when we are out of control.  If you are with someone who is on a strict budget, you are more likely to manage your money as well.  
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Reward yourself
Reward yourself
Research has shown that we are better able to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains when we have a reward in mind - even if it’s self-imposed.  So establish a reward system in order to conquer your temptations.  If you study all week long for your test and achieve your desired grade, treat yourself to those shoes you’ve been eyeing.  
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And penalize yourself
And penalize yourself
Rewarding yourself for good self-control should also be balanced with a penalty for poor self-control.  The threat of a punishment can be equally motivating when it comes to meeting goals.  For instance, make yourself skip a concert you’ve wanted to go to if you don’t achieve your goal.  
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Focus on the means and not just the ends
Focus on the means and not just the ends
Abstract thinking as opposed to concrete thinking has been linked to enhanced self-control, and even increased creativity.  Focus on the bigger picture surrounding a goal – why are you doing it?--not just how you’re going to accomplish it.  Having a well-rounded understanding of your goals will make them easier to stick to.
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Be optimistic
Be optimistic
Don’t underestimate the power of positive thinking.  Merely being optimistic about your ability to resist temptation can make it easier to do so.  If you think you can avoid chocolate cake and tell yourself how easy it is, than you are more likely to believe it and succeed.  
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Eliminate stressors
Eliminate stressors
It’s probably no surprise, but stress can sabotage self-control.  A stressful day at the office makes resisting comfort food particularly difficult.  Try eliminating unwanted stress and commitments.  Use that extra time to focus on your goals, clear your head with meditation, organize your thoughts – whatever will help you stay focused on what you want to achieve.  
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Sleep
Sleep
Getting an adequate amount of sleep is also linked to better self-control.   Research indicates that while we sleep, self-control is replenished by regenerating glucose levels in the pre-frontal cortex.  
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Be inspired
Be inspired
Identify what really inspires you and motivates you to be your best.  What do you enjoy most in life?  Do you like to run? Play guitar? Be outdoors?  Carve out some time every day to do something that brings out your most positive emotions, as they will help keep your goals on track and your mind (and stress levels) in a good place.  
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Practice
Practice
Remember that we all have off days and will sometimes stray off course.  Sometimes you may give in to that pizza craving, but you can always steer back on course and start over again tomorrow.  Self-control takes practice, and the more bad habits you defeat, the easier it will become.