Want More Self-Control? Try This …

So it’s date night for you and your credit card, and the dark side of the internet (yes online shopping, I’m talking to you) is working really hard to tempt you into spending a load of money. You can practically hear it panting. 

Knowing that you’re better than a frivolous, senseless decision that could financially ruin you for a couple of weeks-ish, you call on your powers of self-control, which are always sometimes occasionally there when you need them.

Then, while you’re using your Snickers as a spoon for your Baskin Robbins, and trying not to think about how life-changing your beautiful new potential purchases will be, you … well … we all know how this ends…

Thankfully, a new study has come up with a way to stop your self-control freeloading and to get it to do its job.

The research published in Psychological Science has found that gratitude reduces impatience for immediate gain, even when real money is at stake.

Here’s how it works. The human mind tends to play down the value of long term gains and play up the value of immediate ones.

Certain moods, such as sadness, have been found to fuel our desire for short term gratification.

Professor Ye Li, one of the researchers, said, ‘Showing that emotion can foster self-control and discovering a way to reduce impatience with a simple gratitude exercise opens up tremendous possibilities for reducing a wide range of societal ills from impulse buying and insufficient saving to obesity and smoking.’

The news gets even better. Gratitude can be improved in as little as two minutes by doing a small exercise.

Think of a few things you are grateful for, the things that you would miss if you didn’t have them. Focusing on what life would be like without certain things has been showed to improve gratitude. (If your partner is on the list, thinking about not having him or her has also been shown to improve the quality of your relationship.)

If you have time, continue to stoke these to life by thinking about why you are grateful for them. This will supercharge your gratitude.

Previous research has shown that people who made weekly entries in a gratitude journal listing five things they were grateful for were 25% happier (more optimistic, felt better about their lives) than those who were asked to list hassles, or neutral events. On top of feeling good, participants in the gratitude condition did almost 1.5 hours more exercise a week and people in the hassles or neutral group.

It’s easy, sometimes automatic, to focus on the negative and worry about things that haven’t happened yet, or may never happen. This effects mood and health and directs attention away from the things that fuel a more positive mood.

When deciding what to think about, there are two options – focus on the good or focus on the bad. They both take the same effort, but one feels better.

Of course, sometimes life is such that focusing away from the negative isn’t that easy. Sometimes the bad is really bad. And sometimes it’s not. The more we can take the opportunities to be grateful and focus on the things that make our life a good one to be living, the better equipped we’ll be to deal with the bad days when they come.

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