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

The Neuroscience of Adolescent Impulsivity

By Christopher Bergland on February 13, 2018 in The Athlete's Way
New research identifies a link between cortical thickness and impulsive decision-making during adolescence.

How Seizing the Moment Can Help Secure Your Financial Future

By Alain Samson Ph.D. on February 13, 2018 in Consumed
About to file your taxes? Make the moment count!

Thinking and Breathing to Calm the Body's Emergency Response

Relaxation practice with slow, regular breathing can help us prepare to face challenging situations more calmly. How this works is a biological process with psychological effects.

Could You Be Addicted to Technology?

By Shainna Ali Ph.D. on February 12, 2018 in A Modern Mentality
Technology is integrated into our daily lives. At what point are we at risk for crossing the fine line from general use to problematic use?

How Can I Be Me While You’re Being You?

Just about all lovers go through a stage of high emotional reactivity that threatens to destroy their relationship.

A Refreshing New Approach to the Free Will Debate

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on February 08, 2018 in Ambigamy
What could stop the free will debate from circling forever? A realistic explanation for what will is and how it emerges from aimless chemistry presented here in four short videos.

Haircuts & Walk-Outs: The Bad Side of Parental Control

By Paula L. White M.A. on February 08, 2018 in Shape Parenting
Do you have a fit when your children's choices go against your wishes? Learn how to build a parent-child bond while having a positive influence on your child's decisions.

Indigenous Healing Psychology

Richard Katz narrates the evolution of his wisdom through encounters with some of the giants of psychology at Harvard as well as honored Indigenous healers in other cultures.

The 6 Triggers of Craving

By Shahram Heshmat Ph.D. on February 06, 2018 in Science of Choice
One of the major goals of drug addiction treatment is to teach addicts how to deal with cravings.
Carl Pickhardt Ph. D.

Adolescence and Repurposing One's Life

A young person can't grow up and still remain the same. They must become different. Repurposing redefines and re-energizes one's growth.

Why Self-Control Fails in Dementia

By Andrew E. Budson M.D. on February 04, 2018 in Managing Your Memory
From former NFL players who have developed Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy to your grandmother with Alzheimer's, why do patients with dementia do inappropriate things?

Why Your Smartphone Is Destroying Your Life

By Anna Akbari Ph.D. on January 30, 2018 in Startup Your Life
Your phone is affecting your happiness - and it's worse than you think.

What Best Predicts Goal Attainment?

By Timothy A Pychyl Ph.D. on January 30, 2018 in Don't Delay
How's that New Year's resolution diet going? Self-control letting you down? A recent study shows the experience of temptation and the resulting depletion are the real culprits.

When Anger Management Requires Going Deeper

Still having trouble letting go of anger? Doing so may require you to go deeper.

3 Steps to Building Happiness

Do you wish your brain would just quit being so darn negative and get happy already? These three steps can help you get there.

10 Reasons Why People Continue to Use Drugs

By Shahram Heshmat Ph.D. on January 22, 2018 in Science of Choice
A behavioral economic perspective views addiction as a consequence of falling victim to decision failures, which lead to a preference for the addictive behavior.
Courtesy of MaxPixel

Embracing our Dark Sides

The key to self-acceptance is embracing both the light and the dark sides of ourselves. We can do this through self-compassion.

Love vs. Habit

Why do so many smart and creative people make the same mistakes over and over?
By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Fight Emotion With Emotion

By Shahram Heshmat Ph.D. on January 17, 2018 in Science of Choice
An important way to enhance self-control is to use our emotions to achieve challenging goals.

Sometimes Being "Nice" Is Just Wrong

Are you being "nice" when you listen to someone's rant? Being kind might just mean saying No.

6 Simple Exercises to Benefit Your Relationship

Try out a few tricks that happy couples use to support their relationship satisfaction.
By August Macke - Own work, Public Domain,

10 Reasons Why People Spend Too Much

By Shahram Heshmat Ph.D. on January 10, 2018 in Science of Choice
When we learn how and why we are vulnerable, we can develop practices that can help us improve our financial well-being.

"Could It Happen to Me?" Our Personal Risk Factors

"There are personal risk factors that dramatically increase the chances of developing an addiction." Excerpted from The Craving Brain

A New Way to Understand Procrastination

You may think you’ll never get over your tendency to put off the tasks you’d rather not complete, or even the ones you’d like to start, but new research suggests how to try.

The Mental Strategy to Help You Keep Your 2018 Goals

By Mariana Plata on January 08, 2018 in The Gen Y Psy
Is goal-setting overwhelming for you? Here's the mental strategy that well-regulated people do to maintain their goals.
Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock

4 Things Every Parent Should Stop Doing Right Now

By Paula L. White M.A. on January 08, 2018 in Shape Parenting
Do you want to make life better for your kids? Stop doing these 4 things today.

Teaching Children Self-Control

Your child's major motivation will be to win your love and approval.

What We Can Learn from the Sexual Harassment Reckoning

By Tasha Eurich Ph.D. on January 04, 2018 in The Power of Insight
How the bad behavior of a few can help inspire a more self-aware world—if we listen.

Why Are Fathers so Angry at Sons?

By Jeffery S. Smith M.D. on January 03, 2018 in Healing and Growing
Being a dad involves a lot of self-discipline. When sons show none, a father's unhelpful anger is only too natural.
courtesy of Pixabay

Three Tools For Making Lasting Change

Looking for some strategies for personal transformation? When science meets wisdom traditions, the recipe is one for success.