High self-control is about organising your life so that you don’t get into situations where it’s impossible. It’s not – believe it or not – about whether your willpower wins, but more about the choices you make and the structure you build. And, much like in HardTalk, these choices take a lot of work to uphold – in fact, the WorkHard module forms the largest part of the full HardTalk programme.

In this article, author Christian Jarrett shares his take on a recent study which looks at what’s needed to successfully exercise self-control.

“You may think of people with high self-control as having enviable reserves of willpower, but recent findings suggest this isn’t the case. Instead it seems the strong-willed are canny folk, adept at avoiding temptation in the first place. A new study in the journal Self and Identity builds on this picture, showing that people high in self-control tend to experience less intense visceral states, like fatigue, hunger and stress (states that are known to encourage impulsive behaviour).

The new findings make sense: after all, it is much easier to be in control of your decisions if you are organised enough to ensure your animalistic needs rarely become overpowering.

Cassandra Baldwin’s team exploited five years’ worth of relevant data from their lab, taking in studies that had measured trait self-control (rated through agreement with statements like “I have hard time breaking bad habits” and “I am able to work effectively toward long-term goals”) and that involved one-shot self-reports of states like hunger, fatigue, daily stress, and symptoms of the common cold.

The researchers ended up with data from over 5,500 college students, mostly women, collected in 25 studies. In many cases, they also had information on how much sleep the participants had had the previous night and the amount of time since they had last eaten.

The results were very consistent: higher trait self-control correlated with less intense experience of all the measured visceral states, from hunger to cold symptoms.”

You can read the article in full on the British Psychological Society site: https://digest.bps.org.uk/2018/08/06/people-with-strong-self-control-experience-less-intense-bodily-states-like-hunger-and-fatigue/

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