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60-Second Mind

How to Gain Self-Control

New research finds a relatively simple method to increase your capacity for self-control. Christie Nicholson reports

We’ve all had that moment: you wanna punch some jerk right in the face. So, what stops us? Well, simply put, self-control.

 

But it turns out each of us has a limited quantity of self-control. Past studies have shown, for example, that stopping yourself from taking a cookie for about an hour is likely to increase your aggression later that day.

 

And there are tricks to increase our stash of control. A new study shows you can practice it, as one would practice any new skill,


For two weeks researchers had subjects use their non-dominant hand for daily tasks: navigating a computer mouse, drinking coffee, etcetera. The tasks require constant self-control, because they were restraining their natural inclinations.  

 

And the scientists found that for those who practiced their self-control skills also controlled their aggression better than others who had not participated in the exercise. The study is in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.

 

So we can increase our capacity for self-control. And the way we do that doesn’t have to be as drastic as using your non-dominant hand. The researchers say even committing to keeping your posture straight can also keep you from punching out that jerk.

 

—Christie Nicholson

 

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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