Thursday, September 6, 2012

Control Yourself, Secure Your Health

Can you control yourself in order to improve your own individual development, achieve individual goals, and properly relate and interact with others? Better yet, can you exercise self-control not merely when it is beneficial, but even more so when it is necessary for personal health? Yet, this prompts an important question, is there even a connection between personal health and self-control? Research shows that there is in fact a relation and that those who exercise proper self-control greatly increase personal health and longevity. Moreover, self-control highly contributes to the further development, not only of individual persons, but of society as a whole. We need self-control in our lives for our own benefit as well as for the benefit of humankind so that society can continually increase, improve, adapt, and survive. So, how can we manage to increase our effectiveness concerning self-control?

            Religion. That’s right, according to recent research; religion has been shown to heighten one’s ability to exercise self-control. Michael E. McCullough and Brian L. B.Willoughby, professors at the University of Miami, found that religious persons are more likely to score high concerning the personality traits of agreeableness and conscientiousness. These qualities have also been observed to be directly correlated with self-control because those who showed self-control most often display high scores concerning agreeableness and conscientiousness. Thus, this creates a direct link between religion and self-control. Moreover, those who maintained self-transcendence (the concept of being influenced by the spiritual realm [demonstrated by such statements as “Sometimes I have felt my life was being directed by a spiritual force greater than any human being” and “I sometimes feel a spiritual connection to other people that I cannot explain in words”]) also were directly related to a heighten degree of self-control.

             But who cares right? Why bother with research and statistics that simply show that religion breeds self-control? That might even seem obvious anyways because religion seems to breed morality which naturally births self-control. Thus, religion, as perceived, just simply hinders one from being able to enjoy life by imposing unnecessary restrictions… or does it? Perhaps you have been swayed by pre-understandings (assumed truths based on unobserved and untested “truths” inherited through parental or other influence) or even presuppositions (assumed “truths” based off of analytical theories that you have constructed through intense, intentional thinking, but nonetheless have not been thoroughly examined with external evidence). Maybe… just maybe, you have categorized and painted self-control in a negative light by mere emotional involvement without even considering that self-control may actually be not only beneficial to one’s self, but even at times necessary (it is tempting to play with fire, but should you?).

            Actually, research has shown that high conscientiousness people (which are most likely to be self-controlled and also coincidentally religious [but is it really coincidence?]) have higher levels of physical activity, consume less alcohol, ingest less tobacco, use less drugs, have healthier eating habits, exhibit safer driving qualities, maintain safer sexual practices, have lower risk for suicide, and less involvement in violence. Not to mention that self-control also increases prevention of criminal activity, increases the presence and lasting duration of functioning romantic relationships, and promotes academic achievement. But who wants to be healthy, happy, knowledgeable, and involved in a fulfilling romantic relationship anyway? Why be self-controlled? All it ever does is forego temporal, momentary pleasure, excitement, or adrenaline for the sake of more lasting, solid degrees of contentment through prolonged health, love, longevity, and ultimately overall contentment and fulfillment.

             But let’s say that you have actually come to see and appreciate the vast value of self-control as it relates to the betterment of self and also how it facilitates behaviors or tendencies that are adaptive for the evolution of large-scale societies. What should you do about it? How can you obtain what you otherwise seek to rebel against? How can you mask the desires to give in under pressure as opposed to enduring through an unpleasant task in order to receive an ultimately more desirable outcome? How can you delay gratification desired instantly for the sake of a greater reward in the future? How can you be persistent at tasks that are laborious and trying, but ultimately beneficial? All of these are components exemplified within self-control; so basically, the question asked is how can you be self-controlled?

            Once again, the research states religion because religious families, who attend religious services and speak of religion inside the home, contain members with high self-control and low impulsiveness; thus, these very families also tend to raise children with higher self-control as well. Furthermore, it has been observed that prayer and meditation increase one’s ability to resolve mental conflict and those who do attend religious services are also associated with a 25% reduction in mortality (in other words, they live on average 25% longer than contemporaries who do not attend religious services).

Religion is certainly AN answer to self-control leading to an increase in temporal, bodily security, but I seek to take a step further and lay an even more solid foundation by stating that Jesus Christ is THE ONLY answer for the eternal security of your entire person: body, spirit, and soul. Perhaps studying religion and exemplifying a sense of morality may benefit your physical existence on earth, but can it truly secure your eternal destiny? Can ultimate self-control drive you toward immortality? No… ultimately you don’t need mere “religion” based around god(s); instead, you need a genuine, invigorating, meaningful, everlasting, impactful, True relationship with the only True Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who, better than any standardized subscription to morality codes or religious rituals, can not only secure you for eternity, but can improve even your current condition by teaching you self-control, and still not just teaching you, but also empowering you and enabling you to apply it in your everyday life.

God bless you all, may you receive His love, reciprocate His love, and be self-controlled,
James William Snyder
Religion and Self Control: UM Professor Michael McCullogh Discusses Study


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