Monday, July 1, 2013

Happiness and Self Control

 Maia Szalavitz in Time writes: "Self-Disciplined People Are Happier (and Not as Deprived as You Think)"

She writes that

"It’s easy to think of the highly self-disciplined as being miserable misers or uptight Puritans, but it turns out that exerting self-control can make you happier not only in the long run, but also in the moment.

The research, which was published in the Journal of Personality, showed that self-control isn’t just about deprivation, but more about managing conflicting goals."


"The authors write that “feeling good rather than bad may be a core benefit of having good self-control, and being well satisfied with life is an important consequence.”

The smartphone experiment also revealed how self-control may improve mood. Those who showed the greatest self-control reported more good moods and fewer bad ones. But this didn’t appear to linked to being more able to resist temptations — it was because they exposed themselves to fewer situations that might evoke craving in the first place. They were, in essence, setting themselves up to happy. “People who have good self-control do a number of things that bring them happiness — namely, they avoid problematic desires and conflict,” says the study’s co-author Kathleen Vohs, professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota."

Here's the abstract of the original study

J Pers. 2013 Jun 11. doi: 10.1111/jopy.12050. [Epub ahead of print]
"Yes, But Are They Happy? Effects of Trait Self-Control on Affective Well-Being and Life Satisfaction." by Hofmann W, Fisher RR, Luhmann M, Vohs KD, Baumeister RF.

Does trait self-control (TSC) predict affective well-being and life satisfaction -positively, negatively, or not?
We conducted three studies (Study 1: n=414; 64.0% female; Mage =35.0 years; Study 2: n=208; 66.0% female; Mage =25.24 years; Study 3: n=234; 61.0% female; Mage =34.53 years). The key predictor was TSC, with affective well-being and life satisfaction ratings as key outcomes. Potential explanatory constructs including goal conflict, goal balancing, and emotional distress also were investigated.
TSC is positively related to affective well-being and life satisfaction, and managing goal conflict is a key as to why. All studies, moreover, showed that the effect of TSC on life satisfaction was at least partially mediated by affect. Study 1's correlational study established the effect. Study 2's experience sampling study demonstrated that compared to those low in TSC, those high in TSC experience higher levels of momentary affect even as they experience desire, an effect partially mediated through experiencing lower conflict and emotional distress. Study 3 found evidence for the proposed mechanism-that TSC may boost well-being by helping people to avoid frequent conflict and balance vice-virtue conflicts by favoring virtues.
Self-control positively contributes to happiness through avoiding and dealing with motivational conflict.

This medical format of conclusion is like the abstract of an abstract. (though in fairness, too often I read abstracts that just pose the question without any hint of at the result. Though, trying to force me to read through the paper to find out only works sometimes...)

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