Mental Health

How to Improve Self-Control: Strategies & Benefits

Table of Content

Self-Control: Overview

We have often heard the phrase self-control here and there. Did you know that there are definitely more psychological components to this? Self-control meaning includes the ability to be able to regulate and also alter your responses. 

These are usually done to increase desirable behaviours and avoid undesirable ones. These are also essential when trying to achieve long term goals. Scientific research has shown that self-control is important for health reasons as well as general well-being. 

We see this in everyday things, such as committing to eating healthy, giving up smoking, saving money bit by bit and many more such things (that require you to actually have a lot of self-control, despite them being seemingly easy things to do!)

Importance of Self-Control

A lack of self-control is what doesn’t allow people to fulfil their goals. This is something that can be learnt, as well as honed. This is related to academic practices of course, as well as health-related things, not to mention financial rigour. 

Health Benefits of Self-Control

This is important for keeping up with healthy behaviours- what you eat, when you eat it, what your exercise routine looks like, how does your sleep cycle look etc. These are all things that are directly linked with self-control benefits. 

Developing a good sense of self-control at a younger age can help with a lot of problems when we grow up. There is of course a limited way in which we can self-control- there is no use in blaming ourselves if there are problems that aren’t caused by self-control (or rather lack thereof). 

There are factors that are truly beyond one’s control, and there’s not much that can be done about that, so we mustn't give in to despair if these situations arrive. People do give up, and that is the point of this piece- perseverance and resilience. 

Incentivizing Self-Control

Research shows that you can improve self-control for a particular activity that you want to change or a new habit that you want to get into. The idea of getting an incentive for a job well done is a good one to be considered in these cases. In some places, gyms have an incentive of cash backs the more frequently you actually come to the gym and get a workout done. 

Getting the incentive should be driven by specific, short term goals relating to it. Make tempting things a goal only thing. If you want to watch a lot of reality tv, tell yourself that you only will watch it when you’re on the treadmill. Plan for the event that you’re getting ready for, and make sure that there are no problems that give you last-minute cold feet for the commitment. 

Make it easy for yourself to not have to always exert self-control when it can be helped. For example, if you are someone who struggles to not eat junk food, make sure that you keep only limited amounts of junk food at home. 

10 Strategies for Developing Self-Control

  • Self-assurance is key. Remind yourself that you are in control and that you will be able to take charge of things when they are tough. 
  • Set goals, and make them as specific as you can. Putting down “eating healthier” isn’t the right way, perhaps putting down “eat salads for lunch” is something more concrete. This will allow you to be able to monitor it as well. 
  • Self-monitoring is also important, to be seen as feedback. It also helps you to focus on goal-related activities, since you will be able to monitor your behaviours this way.
  • The value that is found in the goal is something that you yourself need to put down. If you’re very motivated for your goal then it should be more of an incentive to get things done and for you to reach your goal. 
  • Have confidence in yourself, and reassure yourself that you can do it. Avoid self-doubting moments and keep your resolve high. Be determined in the goal that you’ve set, so that you can feel good about it when you’re done with it.
  • There is also a set amount of willpower that people have. Garner the most that you can for yourself, because depending on the intensity of the work that needs to be done, you will need it. 
  • Do the best you can to avoid sources of temptation. Avoid places where desires will be creeping up on you, especially when you’ve been doing the most to avoid the things you’re avoiding. 
  • Think about the whys and the hows of why you got into this in the first place. Why this is something that you want to do, and how you’re going about it. This keeps your eyes on the prize.
  • Make self-control a pattern of behaviour that you made into a habit. Breaking into a habit takes time but it isn’t something that is impossible. Habit making can keep you going because once things are a habit they are easy to fall back into. 
  • Plan out certain behavioural things, especially when things don’t seem to be going your way. If you have to go out and eat food from fast food places, then try and get something that goes well with your regime. Repeated practice of self-control techniques strengthens them. 


In essence, self-control manages your ability to be able to stick to goals, avoid negative outcomes and improve positives. This is an important skill that we need to learn or hone because it is very helpful in maintaining our long term, as well as short term goals. It is a limited resource, as are most things, but there are self-control methods to improve it over time, which will definitely help you reach your goals in the way you have intended. 


  1. What is the meaning of self-control?
    Ans. Self-control is defined by psychologists as the capacity to manage one's conduct in order to avoid temptation and achieve goals.  It also includes the ability to delay gratification and resist unpleasant behaviours or cravings.
  2. How to develop patience and self-control?
    Ans. While our experiences and personality types play a role in the development of patience and self-control, it is possible to train yourself to develop patience. Tips to improve self-control include planning ahead, focusing on one goal at a time, and more. 

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