From the Department for Spending Lots of Grant Money to Learn the Bloody Obvious comes super-science wisdom!
It turns out the people who have to practice self-control once in a while get really irritable and violent.
However, people who practice self-denial over a steady period of time wind up with a much higher level of self-control.
“I think, for me, the most interesting findings that have come out of this is that if you give aggressive people the opportunity to improve their self-control, they’re less aggressive,” Denson says. It’s not that aggressive people don’t want to control themselves; they just aren’t very good at it. In fact, if you put aggressive people in a brain scanner and monitor their brain activity while insulting them, the parts of the brain involved in self-control are actually more active than in less aggressive people. So it might be possible to teach people who struggle with anger or violence problems to control themselves more easily.
For people who aren’t inclined toward violence, it may also be useful to practice self-control — by trying to improve your posture, for example. In the short term, this can deplete self-control and make it harder to control your impulses. “But if you practice that over the long term, your self-control capacity gets stronger over time,” Denson says. “It’s just like practicing anything, really — it’s hard at first.” But, over time, it can make that annoying colleague easier to deal with.
Wow. Just … wow. Science!: re-learning stuff the Church has taught–and been mocked for–for 2000 years. Who knew that a little bit of self-denial (such as, say, fasting and abstinence) could make you a better person, and actually strengthen you to deal with adversity? Oh, wait, that’s right: every pope, saint, and just plain ole Christian for a couple millennia. If only they’d worn cool little white coats and gone to better schools, maybe the smart set would have paid attention.