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Self-control is boosted by giving yourself a break, study finds

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The dominant view of self-control in modern psychology and behavioral science is that it's a limited resource; once you use up all you have, you're bound to then indulge in the thing you're trying to set limits with.

Yet a new article published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences suggests that self-control can actually be bolstered by giving in a little.

While self-control tends to dip when a person is tired or stressed, scheduling activities or breaks that are pleasurable – especially during rough times – can help you avoid unhealthy temptations, the researchers say.

“In short, when people are ‘depleted’ or fatigued, they experience a change in motivational priorities such that they attend to and work less for things they feel obliged to do and attend to and work more for things they want to do – things they like doing," said Dr. Michael Inzlicht, psychologist at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Planning is key

Developing better self-control, Inzlicht says, is a matter of relating to your goals differently. When you can view a task or obligation as something you want to do (or at least find a way to relate to it pleasurably for the moment) rather than something you have to do, you're more likely to make healthy choices. Inzlicht elaborates:

If someone wants to eat healthier, they should think of the enjoyment that they can get from eating delicious, yet healthy, foods; in contrast, they should probably not frame their eating goal as something they feel obliged to do because their doctor or spouse is trying to convince them to do so.

The reasoning behind this theory also supports that vacations, breaks and occasional indulgences aren't bad for productivity; they're actually essential for better "performance" when it comes to self-control.

“The key is finding a way to want and like the goal that you are chasing," Inzlicht concludes. "Some people do this naturally – think of the person who loves to run and jogs as a way to relax or take a break.”

Source: Psych Central

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