Why is it so hard to have self-control?
A main topic when dealing with anything that you want to limit, yet long to do, is to do with self- control. People say it all the time, “well, all you need to do is control yourself”. Self-control is actually listed as one of the ‘fruits of the spirit’ so it actually has a biblical basis, Seven Fruits; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. So I think this is actually a good basis for when we look at how to care for ourselves as well as our self-affirmations.
So the question, is taking on a new lifestyle with monitoring what and how much you eat to do with self control? Studies have shown that there is a fifty percent failure rate in regards to self- control. Freud believed that we are always working against ourselves, our instincts, our drives, and the management of our behaviour as being either appropriate, or not. We have a mind energy system which provides an energy resource of self-control. So what is really interesting is that we all have limited energy, the older we get the less energy we have, and the more we deplete that energy, the more we deplete our self-control ability. Any time when it is that we are trying so hard to avoid something, example: do not think of the pink elephant, the more we become mentally exhausted. We actually begin to suffer, become depleted, and eventually can not control our impulses. The more we go on like this, the less control we have to the point of no control, as time goes on.
Often we talk about monitoring. This is the basis of cognitive behavioural therapy, by monitoring your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions, the idea is that you will be able to maintain your centre. What is really interesting though, is that the more you restrain yourself, the less you are able to override your impulses, so that it is not so much about the monitoring about your thoughts, feelings, or actions, but it is about monitoring the strength that you have to override an urge. The strength is to do with how much energy you actually really have at your disposal.
When you are depleted of self-control energy then the less passion that you have for what you are wanting to accomplish. This reminds me of anorexics, they tend to sleep a lot so that they can miss out on food, but I suppose to also recharge their ability to resist eating food.
The key, is actually in the recharging of your limited energy resource of self-control in order to be able to overcome that 50% failure rate. The more you practice that, the more you will become smarter and better at whatever it is that you are wanting to accomplish.
Recharging your self control system is based in both biological processes as well as psychological processes. In order to be able to recharge your metabolic energy the first thing that you will need to be able to do is to get good sleep. The less sleep you get and the more disrupted your sleep pattern, the more depleted your self control energy will be. The next thing is to have a boost of energy first thing in the morning. Caloric intake increases your energy level so that if you fill or recharge that energy first thing in the morning you will be able to maintain your self-control much more likely throughout the day.
For me, my boost first thing in the morning is coffee with cream and sometimes I eat a breakfast of eggs. I find if I over recharge my energy system then my body wants me to keep it up and I find it has the opposite effect.
Physiologically, recharging self-control offsets the negative consequences of depletion of energy and enables persistence in the face of failure. So to recharge your self-control system psychologically you need to be able to have a self-affirmation exercise based in the ‘fruits of the spirit’ to continue to align with your values, purpose, and meaning of your new lifestyle as well as how you now look at food. This gives your energy system the boost it needs to continue to maintain self-control energy throughout the day.