Belief In God Can Increase Self-Control

This might seem like a controversial idea at first, but the more you think about it, the more obvious it gets. Religious doctrines require people to refrain from certain activities. For example, consumption of alcohol or gambling is forbidden in Islam, or if you grew up in a kosher household, you were forbidden from eating certain types of food. Years of such self-restraint is likely to have a positive impact on a person’s self-control.

These ideas are not just figments of my imagination (and I’m not one to bash atheists/agnostics) , there is credible research to go along with them:

Religion Replenishes Self-Control

(Warning: .pdf file) – Religion, Self-control, And Self-regulation: How And Why Are They Related?

The researchers conduct an interesting series of tests on believers and atheists, the results show that thinking about God can have a positive impact on:

  • Tackling Discomfort – Participants were paid a nickel for taking a sip of sour orange juice. For every sip taken, they would be paid a nickel. People who believed in God were able to endure a higher level of discomfort and take a higher number of sips.
  • Delaying Gratification –  Participants were asked if they would like $5 now or $6 a week later. Participants who confessed to a belief in God, choose the better option of taking $6, thereby showing a higher ability to delay gratification
  • Persistence – Participants were asked to solve a difficult puzzle. People with religious affinities persisted for a lot longer than atheists.

The most interesting result was that it doesn’t take belief in a particular religion but just thinking about a higher power can help, even if sub-consciously.

Now why am I sharing this on a blog meant for people who work from home? Well, as you may already know, working from home can really test the limits of your self-control. Amidst so many distractions, focusing on work does require a very high degree of discipline and one must take help from wherever it comes. I’ve written extensively about the difficulties arising from working remotely.

This may not be for everyone, but the idea of an omnipresent God watching over us may help some in making better decisions. It’s like a police car on a highway, it helps you stay within the limits. So combine this knowledge with some meditation techniques and you will be well on your way towards better self-control. Thoughts welcome.

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