Self-control is all sorts of useful if you want to set a goal and achieve it, so its role in long-term happiness feels like a given. But, we'll be the first to admit our immediate mood responds better to here-and-now hedonism than self-restraint (with a few notable, regrettable exceptions). Yet, a new study suggests we may be fooling ourselves. Researchers at the University of Chicago found long- and short-term satisfaction go hand in happy hand with self-control.
First, we think it's important to distinguish between short-term happiness and instant gratification. If you've ever regretted sleeping in to skip the gym or eating any number of cupcakes greater than one, we think you'll feel us. Indulgers' remorse — it sets in real quick. But is it worse than fight off a craving over and over again? What do these elite self-controllers know that the rest of us don't?
To start, there's no secret nirvana in habitual self-deprivation. People with high levels of self-discipline have fewer internal battles, and that's why they're so happy — less internal conflict. They tangle less with the should-or-I-or-shouldn't-I questions that often precede self-indulgence and don't get down because they can't — oh, we don't know — eat a tub of frosting with a fork. Such ideas aren't entertained often or for long.
It's almost like they've learned to be above it, because they have. The study defined self-control as "the ability to override or change one's inner responses" and to refrain from acting on impulses. Since nobody is born with this ability — have you ever seen a toddler not get his way? — we all can learn it or, at the very least, improve upon it. Now we have a whole new reason not to give in to our id. So, smile! You can't have it. (The Atlantic)
Photo: Courtesy of The Atlantic.