Self Control Activities – How to Not Eat Cake

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about teaching self-control is a child. Though, children aren’t the only ones who struggle with self-control.

Looking at the common factors between a child who lashes out in anger, and an alcoholic and you’ll find uncanny similarities. Both have behaviors brought on by impulse or it’s a coping mechanism. Both are attempts to gain access to some sort of tangible object.

Bottom line, they are coping behaviors. Over time, your brain tries to remember things that got you what provided you reward. This leads to attention seeking behaviors, or behaviors that gain you access to an object you might want.

Whether those behaviors are healthy or not might be relative. But I think we can all agree that asking for something is preferred to screaming for it. Both asking and screaming are behaviors, but one has a better end result than the other.

There are so many things that contribute to control. Here are a few that are important, and that I’ll touch on.

  • Slow but steady removal of the habit
  • Avoiding Complicated or difficult situations
  • Get an enforcer
  • Reinforce yourself for doing your best

These are just a few of the important things. When it comes to self-control, you’ll need some time to think. Later on, I’ll talk about some activities that give you that time to think. Like meditation.

Self Control Can be Taught at Any Age

Whether you are four or 44, it won’t matter. Everyone has some sort of issue with self-discipline or control.

It’s difficult to give a one-size-fits-all solution. I can try and answer how do you stop yourself from eating what you know is bad for you. But it’s really up to you. What bothers me is most would say something along the lines of “Just don’t do it” it’s almost never that easy.

What needs to happen is a change at the core level of your wants and desires. You have to replace that behavior with another that fits the same function.

Here’s an example

Jimmy, who is an avid stamp collector can’t seem to stop buying stamps. Even ones that he already has in his collection.

It’s an impulse he can’t seem to shake.

Jimmy needs to replace his buying behavior in order to avoid buying more stamps he already owns in the future.

It’s possible he could leave his debit card at home during outings. Though, that’s very inconvenient.

Or possibly, he might stop going to the places where stamps are sold until certain times of the month.

Both are viable, what’s important to remember is they are replacements for his constant purchasing behavior.

After Slowly Replacing Comes the Enforcement

Often times all that’s necessary is responsibility. You can find someone who is willing to help you say no to temptation.

Maybe a friend or a spouse. This person needs to be consistent and willing to help with your given problem. Don’t let them fail, that way they can’t let you fail. This person will be your enforcer.

And finally, find a reinforcer. Something that acts as a reward if you hit your goals. Something that doesn’t feed into the same function as the behavior you are trying to get rid of is best.

From the Jimmy example. He might reward himself with a night out with friends. What must be avoided is rewarding yourself with what you are trying to avoid. Like rewarding yourself with ice cream for working out. It doesn’t make much sense.

Now What Activity Can Really Help You With This?

Good question!

Anything that distracts you from your given problem. It’s preferable that you choose something social. Activities including a social element tend to break addictions faster than normal activities.

It might also be good to include your enforcer in your social activities.

Just ensure you have a plan in place. You are much less likely to fall off of a plan you’ve put work into. So just make sure to put time and effort into whatever intervention you are planning for yourself.

Another very important thing to note: find time to think about how you’ll avoid complicated situations.

If you play video games for too long and you know it’s almost time to get off, don’t start a new quest to slay dragons. That’s far too exciting.

Do something more boring at the end of your gaming session. You are more likely to remember the first and last moments of something and not so much the middle.

Your brain will latch on to the boring moment and give you less drive to do the activity it remembers as boring.

Meditation, or Just Time to Think

When it comes to self-control activities, few tops the list besides meditation. It provides many benefits besides a calm mind.

Find time to be alone. Maybe 30 minutes, where you can think about anything and everything. What this does is get your mind off of the activity or thing in question. It allows you to ponder what you need to.

Besides meditation you can:

  • Exercise
  • Nature walk
  • Go Hiking
  • Find somewhere secluded and think
  • Find a wonderful view and look at it for a long time
  • Draw

As you can see, it’s easy to find activities to fill the time. And really, that’s all that’s needed when trying to control yourself.

Conclusion

All in all, find something that works for you. Try everything. Reward yourself and find an enforcer. Those two things are key.

But also ensure you are slowly fading out that bad habit. That will give you the best chance of controlling that behavior you might hate. If you aren’t satisfied with replacement behaviors, and you just want something to learn to be gain more self-control.

Here is a list of activities that slowly teach that principle.

A more comprehensive list of Self Control Activities:

  • touch your sides at the presence of the problem
  • Count backward from ten
  • talk to a friend or spouse
  • Go outside.
  • Inform others you are leaving the situation
  • Make any form of art
  • Surf the web or YouTube
  • Read a book
  • Play with a puzzle
  • Breath deeply ten times
  • Learn Square breathing
  • Learn a martial art
  • Learn a new language
  • Improve one of your skills(Like writing)
  • Go to get some coffee
  • learn to solve a Rubik’s cube

The possibilities are endless. Just find something that fit’s your habits and integrates well with your world.

Best,

Patrick

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