People with higher self-control are happier because they pursue more rewarding goals, research finds.
Having high self-control is linked to being more positive in life, approaching potentially rewarding situations and achieving ambitions.
People high on self-control are also less likely to focus on the negative, which leads to avoidance.
The result is that people with high self-control are happier:
“…individuals with higher [self-control] are not only happier in that they experience greater life satisfaction, they also do not need to self-regulate as often as one may think.”
In other words, people with high self-control battle with their inner demons less because it is easier for them to make the more virtuous choice.
And, in the long run, more virtuous choices, repeated over many years, make a person happier.
Greater happiness is not the only benefit of self-control, as the study’s authors write:
“…research has also consistently shown higher [self-control] to be associated with more positive outcomes in life such as higher academic achievement, better health, more interpersonal success, and less maladaptive adjustments.
As such, self-control has been heralded as an evolutionary trait to ensure adaptation and survival.”
The results come from a survey of 545 people who were asked about their self-control, levels of happiness and how they made decisions.
The study’s authors explain:
“…individuals with high [self-control] are less likely to encounter motivational conflicts, they are therefore also less obligated to exert avoidance-oriented strategies associated with a prevention focus to resist or counter temptations or vices.
Instead, they are more liberated to pursue their goals, aspirations and ideals by carrying out approach-oriented strategies to actualize their personal ambitions as encouraged by a promotion focus.”
The rash should beware!
Some might say the results are the opposite of what they expect.
After all, if you are always denying yourself by exerting your self-control, when do you have any fun?
As the authors write:
“One could imagine that constantly self-regulating according to morals, standards, and social expectations would result in living a dull, mundane, and joyless life.”
In fact, the study finds that people high in self-control spend less time regulating themselves and making difficult decisions.
People with high self-control are happier in the long-run and in the short-term.
The rash should beware!
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Cheung et al., 2014).