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Self-Control and a Healthier Happier Life

By Eri Anton


So, what exactly is self-control and why is it so important to a healthier and happier life?

Self-control is the ability to not act on your desires in order to attain another goal. The opposite of self-control is indulging in any action that momentarily satisfies a short-term goal at the expense of long-term rewards.  Self-control is a key mental strength and very important to success in everyday life.  The list below provides how self-control can help and what potential negative outcomes will happen when self-control is not used:

Achieve long-term goals

To achieve any long-term goals, individuals need to resist the tempting immediate rewards of lower priorities which compete with those which are the more important goals. The point is to reduce the power of momentary feelings for longer term reward. For example, I might want to eat certain foods but don’t act on that for the longer term reward of being in great shape.


When people are experiencing negative emotions, they may distract themselves by shifting their attention to something else.  Having control to shift your attention to something else more pleasurable or beneficial is an important form of self-control that enables people to avoid distractions and thereby to focus on what is most relevant and important in the moment.   When your mind is focused on the most important priority your ability to perform is enhanced greatly. 


When individuals do not exhibit self control and over indulge in bad behaviors it becomes a problem and leads to abuse and addiction. People with bad self-control are consistently identified as those who fall into abusive behaviors. The need for immediate gratification drives the behavior and is usually driven by the desire to hide or get away from something negative. The bad behavior although short term occupies the mind and then develops into an addiction to continually mask the pain. The abusive behavior does not solve the problem in the end and only leads to a further state of dysfunction. In the area of addiction food, drugs, alcohol and sex are used and abused with no successful outcomes. Excess and abuse of each of these leads to addiction and dysfunction.


The ability to exercise self-control is linked to obesity. Reduced self-control is related specifically to choices of comfort foods (i.e., the dessert and fried food). One possible explanation for this relationship is that individuals who are obese and severely depressed have reduced self-control for choosing comfort foods to feel better.  

Physical health 

Self-control contributes to a better overall state of physical health. Self-control better enables people to resist engaging in health-damaging behaviors, including use of tobacco, alcohol, and other harmful substances.  


The capacity to use self-control benefits close relationships by enabling people to maintain interpersonal harmony, especially in unpleasant and difficult circumstances. The ability to remove certain emotions and use self-control to be more understanding in a unpleasant situation is critical so it doesn’t become worse. Learning to appreciate each other’s perspective in a conflict is a sign of not of weakness but of strength. By doing so, they are able to override automatic defensive reactions in favor of more reflective, positive and beneficial behaviors.


The term "resilient" refers to the ability to bounce back to normal after difficulty. Resilient people have good control over impulses and have ability to delay gratification in regard to the potential consequences of their actions. A resilient person has a belief in their own abilities to manage life’s challenges and situations effectively. For example, training for situations allows you to have the proper mental perspective and not over react making you much better and efficient in stressful situations.

Self-control is a personal quality that contributes to human happiness. Research shows that people are happier, more productive, and more creative when they feel they are in control of the origin of their behavior. Achieving a worthwhile objective to which one has devoted oneself makes people better off. Anyone who can control themselves will rule over their passions, desires, and fears.