Ok ok, Self-regulation and Mindfulness are closely connected, research has shown. And yes, if you want to boost your self-regulation, a regular mindfulness practice has been shown to help greatly. But! There are people for whom the idea of meditation or other mindfulness practices are either unappealing, or simply not appropriate. For example, research has shown that for those who are even mildly depressed, or anxious, mindfulness can worsen symptoms and needs proper supervision and guidance. Let’s consider some alternatives…
Recap: in my first post I defined Self-regulation as managing our thoughts, feelings and behaviour in order to achieve goals. I differentiated this from self-control. In the second I outlined the research showing the myriad benefits of self-regulation. In the next few posts I want to start sharing some simple and practical interventions which have been shown to increase self-regulation capacity.
The first research insight to share is that building a regular practice, of almost anything, can boost self regulation. For example, regular exercise, regularly monitoring your posture, financial expenditure, and keeping food diaries have all been shown in studies to boost overall self-regulation capacity over time. How? According to self-regulation theory, there are a number of components to regulating ourselves, including: setting goals, awareness & monitoring of our behaviours and adjusting it if required. Committing to a regular practice, such as a daily physical exercise habit, forces us to practice all these things, and gradually boosts our capacity, a bit like training a muscle.
In fact, for my Masters, I tested out a daily exercise intervention, to see if it would boost my overall psychological health. It was during a time when I was feeling quite overwhelmed and a bit demoralised. The daily exercise practice certainly boosted my Psychological Wellbeing (I used the PsyCap Scale, which measures Hope, Optimism, Resilience & Self-Efficacy), but when I dug a little deeper to understand the mechanisms, I found that the exercise helped me to self-regulate better, and manage the various emotions that were otherwise acting as stressors. So the regular physical activity became a coping strategy as well as boosting my other self-regulation skills.
So for all those of you who are not in the mood to meditate, there are plenty of other ways to build your self-regulation muscle. And then, you never know, you might find the practice of mediation more appealing!
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