Self-discipline makes us happier

Self-discipline makes us happier, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality.

So, do we know what self-discipline means?

It can take various forms. And it all has to do with brain health.

Many of us view self-disciplined people as uptight, goody-two-shoes, lacking a sense of  humor, understanding of others and flexibility, denying themselves the pleasures of a relaxed life.

That is seldom a realistic view of a self-disciplined person, the study found.

Researchers gave 414 middle-aged adults a series of tests that assessed their levels of self-control and satisfaction with life.

They found that the two were strongly linked. In a second test, they called participants at random times and asked them to rate their mood and whether they felt any immediate desires.

Sure enough, a good mood and a sense of self-satisfaction were linked to what psychologists call “trait self-control.”

A third experiment investigated how self-control affects the way people handle goals that conflict with one another—for instance, how individuals handle and differ between the pleasure of eating a sugary cupcake versus the pain of gaining weight.

More than 230 participants were asked to list three important goal conflicts they experienced regularly and to rate the intensity and frequency of the conflicts.

Researchers found that those with stronger self-control tended to avoid creating situations in which their goals clashed and reported fewer instances of having to pick between short-term pleasure and long-term pain.

The result? They experienced fewer negative emotions. They were, in essence, setting themselves up to be conflict-free and thus more contented and accepting.

And more happy and less stressed.

“People who have good self-control do a number of things that bring them happiness,” said the study’s co-author Kathleen Vohs, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota.

“They struggle less with resisting temptation and wind up with fewer bad feelings and more overall contentment.”

Common sense tells us that we feel better when we resist and overcome a damaging temptation. The same rule applies when we overcome procrastination and get something done that we know in our heart needs to be done.

As individuals, we have greater and lesser degrees of self-discipline. But perhaps the effort of exerting self-discipline in even a small matter can help us benefit from one little obstacle in the way of our own weaknesses.

Self-discipline in confronting the problems of life, one at a time, may be something we can learn from those who we have written off as ‘uptight.’

And maybe they can learn something from those of us who are not quite so ‘uptight.’

Source: Time, 100 New Health Discoveries