All About Self-Control

Self-control separates us from our ancient ancestors and the rest of the animal kingdom, thanks to our large prefrontal cortex. It is the ability to subdue our impulses in order to achieve longer-term goals. Rather than responding to immediate impulses, we can plan, evaluate alternative actions, and, often enough, avoid doing things we'll later regret. The ability to exert self-control is typically called willpower. It is what allows us to direct our attention, and it underlies all kinds of achievement. There is significant debate in science as to whether or not willpower is a finite resource. Studies demonstrate that exercising willpower makes heavy demands on mental energy, notably on reserves of glucose, the brain's preferred fuel, creating ego depletion. It's one reason we're more apt to reach for that chocolate chip cookie when we're feeling stressed than when we're feeling on top of the world. Recently, scientists have failed to replicate some of the studies underlying the concept of ego depletion, and more research is underway.

Recent posts on Self-Control

It's Not Fair

By Sam Louie MA, LMHC on May 23, 2016 in Minority Report
Sexually-addicted clients often will say, "It's not fair!" when comparing the boundaries they impose on themselves to keep themselves sexually sober. But once this occurs...

When We Were Zombies: Why Time Consciousness Matters

By Marc Wittmann Ph.D. on May 16, 2016 in Sense of Time
Break with some of your daily routines. Surprise intensifies the feeling of your self and expands subjective time.

Top 10 Ways to Gain Willpower

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on May 14, 2016 in How To Do Life
A buffet of tactics.

Soaring Love or Plodding Relationship?

Soaring love transcends the limits of emotional habits and helps us become the most empowered and humane partners we can be.

How to Handle Your Anger at Your Child

We all enter the parenting relationship wounded in some way from our childhoods, and our kids surface all those wounds.
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Why Grit Is Not the Answer

Is "grit" a virtue?
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Yes, It Is Time to Finally Move on From Sex Addiction

A new clinical model for the treatment of out of control sexual behavior appears to suggest that the sex addiction model is approaching its expiration date.

Five Mindfulness Skills to Help You and Your Teen Be Calmer

Mindfulness-based interventions reduce everyday worries as well as the symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression in adults. Teens value these benefits, too!

Why Is Procrastination Even a Thing?

Are you a chronic procrastinator? Here's one way to keep moving.

3 Strategies to Stop Overeating

By Rolf Reber Ph.D. on May 05, 2016 in Critical Feeling
When people want to change their eating behavior, they start with changing themselves. Yet sometimes it is smart to change the environment.

5 Personal Traits That Predict Long-Term Weight Loss Success

By Susan McQuillan M.S., RDN on May 05, 2016 in Cravings
Do you have what it takes to maintain a healthy weight? Here's the checklist for success.

Does Going on a Digital Fast Make Sense?

The answer depends on how you see your relationship with technology.

Bipolar Treatment Is More Than Just Tools To Lower Intensity

By Tom Wootton on April 30, 2016 in Bipolar Advantage
The brakes-only solutions that are the current standard of care traps everyone in the driveway for the rest of their lives where they live in fear for the next time the brakes fail

How We Shoot Ourselves in the Foot Again and Again

We can repeatedly shoot ourselves in the foot for one simple reason. Under stress, we tend to retreat to habits of emotion regulation formed as far back as toddlerhood.
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The Mindful Pause: How to Help Others

The very popular and short exercise called "the mindful pause" integrates character strengths & mindfulness. This post delves into its use by practitioners. Learn several examples.

3 Reasons Why America Is Starting to Lose God

By Andy Tix Ph.D. on April 28, 2016 in The Pursuit of Peace
Both personal religiousness and spirituality are showing signs of decline in the United States. Here’s why.

The Little-Known Downsides of Mindfulness Practice

Recent research uncovers some potentially serious pitfalls.

This Is Your Brain On Poverty

By Darby Saxbe Ph.D. on April 26, 2016 in Home Base
How does poverty affect the development of the adolescent brain?

Strength Versus Structure

By Timothy A Pychyl Ph.D. on April 26, 2016 in Don't Delay
Strength is important. We may even say it’s essential, but it’s not sufficient. It’s structure and routine that will save us when the going gets tough.

Is Being a Control Freak Ruining Your Happiness?

By Raj Raghunathan Ph.D. on April 26, 2016 in Sapient Nature
Being overly controlling of others is neither good for your happiness nor for your success. Here's how you can overcome this self-defeating tendency.

Marijuana and Weight: A Plant With Virtues to Be Discovered?

Many people have experienced the “munchies,” those extraordinarily powerful feelings of hunger after using marijuana. Surprisingly, marijuana has paradoxical effects on weight.

Do You Know How to Be Practical?

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on April 25, 2016 in How To Do Life
A self-assessment inventory that may help you decide if and how you want to be more practical.

Who Can Win the Game of Thrones?

PBS BrainCraft segment looks at psychological issues in HBO's Game of Thrones, particularly the role that self-control might play in determining which character can "win" the game.
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The Mind’s News Station

Our ego acts a lot like the news.

"All Muslims Are Terrorists!"

By Izzy Kalman on April 19, 2016 in Resilience to Bullying
News about terrorism has fostered Islamophobic bullying. Here is simple advice, consistent with Islamic teachings, on how Muslims can cope with Islamophobic bullying.
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Mindfulness Is Control

By Tim Carey Ph.D. on April 18, 2016 in In Control
If you want to live a more mindful life or any kind of life at all, do what you can to understand the process of control.

Neurobiology of Self-Control in Dogs

By Gregory S. Berns on April 17, 2016 in plus2sd
A new study in dogs trained for MRI shows the part of the brain necessary for impulse control.

I Wanted to Write About Attention Span Because....

By Liz Swan Ph.D. on April 16, 2016 in College Confidential
Is it true that we live in a much busier and information-saturated world, or is that just a convenient myth?

A Badge, a Bible...and an Over-Valued Idea

A state trooper is fired for preaching to motorists. Was it the devil—or was it perhaps psychology—that made him do it?

The Passage of Time Across the Life Span

By Marc Wittmann Ph.D. on April 11, 2016 in Sense of Time
Research has confirmed that subjective time passes increasingly faster as we grow older. A study now shows that the ability of 'emotion regulation' can slow down subjective time.