Self control.

Your ability to control your emotions and behaviors may seem like it’s best when you’re rested and restored on Monday morning. That’s probably the day you’re most likely to put together meal plans and workout schedules. Recent research, however, has shown that you might be wrong in that assumption.

An article published in Journal of Consumer Research explains that self control may actually be highest exactly when you’re feeling down or tired. 

The study researchers noted that this may have to do with our personal safety feelings. They call it “self-protective motivation” and note that it drives us to go for safety products when we’re feeling depleted or tired. Two studies were done to test this phenomenon. In the second study, they found that:

In a second study looking at product selection, participants were asked to fill out a survey on health and fitness habits either before or after working out at the gym. As a thank you gift, the participants were able to choose either sunblock or moisturizer. When participants were surveyed after working out, the likelihood of choosing sunblock was much greater than choosing the moisturizer.

What does this mean for you? As the researchers suggest, you should consider making those healthy decisions when you’re tired. This may mean putting together your grocery list for the week or driving yourself to the gym after work. As long as certain decisions can feel safe for you when you’re tired, you may have a better chance in engaging in those healthy behaviors that you wish to do.

Besides the researcher’s conclusions, there may be another reason for your increased self control during tired times. It may be that when you’re tired, you’re better able to focus in on one thing at a time, rather than paying attention to various distractors. When you’re too tired for social media or other distractions, it can be easier to hone in on healthier behaviors.

This is a hypothesis only, of course, but many computer apps have been successful in making people more productive by doing exactly that. Apps like SelfControl allow you to block your own access to distracting websites, while applications like StayFocused only allow you to access them for a pre-determined amount of time. If you find that your self control isn’t boosted when tired, it may useful to try these apps for work productivity in order to allow time for those healthier behaviors you want to partake in.

Do you find that you make better health decisions when you’re tired? 

Image by Sodanie Chea via Flickr

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