I’ve written before on positive self-affirmations and how they are not of much use, but now it seems that if we are succumbing to temptation and we want to exercise self-control but are finding it difficult to do so, we should recite positive self-affirmations to help us resist.
A novel experiment has now shown that positive self-affirmations can help us all by boosting our self-control when it declines.
Self-control can be hard to maintain, as most of us know to our cost. One study has found that exercising self-control is such hard work, it measurably depletes our glucose levels. […]
To find out [if self-affirmation could help us exercise self-control] participants were asked to carry out a task that required self-control: they had to write a story but without using the letters ‘a’ and ‘n’. Participants then wrote about their core values, e.g. their relationship with their family, their creativity or their aesthetic preferences, whatever they felt was important to them.
Finally they were given a classic test of self-control: submerging their hand in a bucket of icy cold water. […]
This group was compared with another that was allowed to use all the letters of the alphabet when writing their story, so didn’t have to exercise their self-control to the same degree. […]
Participants who could use any letters managed to hold their hands underwater for almost 80 seconds, on average. However those who had written the stories without the ‘a’s and ‘n’s only managed 27 seconds. […]
However in the group that had to write the tricky story, then self-affirmed their core values, self-control did recover. They managed to hold their hands underwater for an average of 61 seconds. So it seems that self-affirmation can refuel depleted self-control.
Note that self-affirmation didn’t improve self-control for people who completed the easy-peasy story. In other words the self-affirmation trick only works if you’ve already taken a hit to your self-control.
The article also notes that self-control has been linked to “all sorts of positive outcomes in life, like satisfying relationships and academic achievement” while the lack of self-control has been linked with “interpersonal conflict and underachievement”.
via Mind Hacks