A research recently published in the journal 'Current Directions in Psychological Science' argues that, when it comes to self-control and keeping ourselves from taking decision we know will eventually impact negatively on our wellbeing, it is best to think about the broader implications of our actions, rather than just take into consideration immediate gratification.
Apparently, by not simply looking at things in themselves and by placing them in abstract categories, it is easier to put a leash on those aspects of our behavior we are not all that thrilled about.
For example, let us suppose that somebody is trying to quit smoking. Should they feel the need to light up a cigarette, it might be easier to give up on the idea if, instead of focusing on the immediate gratification of their gesture, they are to focus on the long-term benefits of not smoking in that particular moment.
More precisely, the opposition between immediate and short-lasting pleasure and long-lasting health is bound to work better than the simple opposition smoke vs. no smoke.
Naturally, this type of abstract thinking can also be employed by those wishing to lose weight or simply cut down on the amount of unhealthy treats they eat on a daily basis.
The official website
for the Association for Psychological Science further explains that, when it comes to achieving some long-term goals for ourselves, the ability to control our behavior is of utmost importance.
Therefore, if thinking abstractly can indeed help us navigate through our immediate desires and keep an eye on the final prize, then working to improve this innate mental ability of ours is indeed something we all need to do.
In purely psychological terms, it seems that placing things in broader categories (i.e. a cigarette is not just a cigarette, it is a threat to our physical wellbeing) eventually leads to our distancing ourselves from the here and now, and opens up our eyes to the beneficial end-results.
This study was conducted by specialists Kentaro Fujita and Jessica Carnevale, from the Ohio State University.