The Importance of Self-Discipline

This past week I have tried to neglect laziness and be more productive. It is safe to say that I have been super busy, which I really enjoyed. But over the past month, I have also walked away from lazy habits by becoming more self-disciplined. I remember first hearing about the habit of discipline – It sounded daunting, something that only soldiers and strong believers show. But once I adopted a more disciplined routine, I realised it is the doorway to getting what you want in life. Here’s why:

If you live life according to immediate comfort and the avoidance of discomfort, you can never get to where you truly want to be. I found self-discipline to be the most crucial thing for my mental health, as I learned that challenges shape you and make you grow.
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It is the Key of Changing

Breaking habits is hard, so you have to change them – Replace bad old habits by doing something new to make it easier for you. For example, I used to go on my phone first thing in the morning. I now pick up my notebook instead, where I can check what I have to do, which motivates me to get out of bed. It would have been way easier and more tempting to keep checking my phone, but by using self-discipline I continually reinforced the emergence of a new habit.

It Establishes a Routine

Through this continued forcing of a simple behaviour, it slowly gets you to change your routine. It takes time, and it will be tough at times, but the more self-discipline you act out the easier it gets. For me, I started with a hobby that I enjoyed and was keen to do, such as sewing. By pushing myself to sew whenever I knew I had time to, I was able to transfer that self-discipline onto other more neglected parts of my life, such as reading non-fiction literature and revising for my driving theory test.

It gets You What You Want

You need continuous discipline to push out of your comfort zone and change. Staying in your comfort zone is what will hold you back from what you truly aspire to be or have in life, and you need to have continuous self-discipline to not crawl back into the place of never facing your fears. In order to have what you desire, you need to go through discomfort and face the challenge, which is where discipline is so crucial! Also, look at what you really want in life, so that you know where to apply your effort. I found a story that made the importance of self-discipline very understandable here:

It is easier to go down a hill than up, but the view is much better at the top. – Henry Ward Beecher

Two summers ago, I had no self-discipline – I was a lazy teenager and my mental state was as its worst. Even three months ago, I was longing to be this whole other person, but the combination of little self-discipline and fear of changes kept me stuck. As a result, I hid away and locked up my anger and unhappiness. But now I have learnt that changes were much needed and have made me happier than I have been in quite some time. But the only way I am getting here is by using constant self-discipline, which makes me able to look back at the end of every day and feel proud and accomplished. So go out and make your future-self proud too, you won’t regret it 🙂

How Self-Restraint is Linked to Happiness

This past week I have been focussing on cutting out gluttonous behaviour, while applying more restraint on myself. There’s a few things I have learnt from doing this, as well as from the reading I have done, so I want to emphasise how important it is to adopt temperance for a healthier and happier mind-set.

Studies have shown that self-discipline is linked to many mental benefits, including happiness (See for more information)
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At first I thought gluttony was just about taking in excessive amounts of food and drink that you want rather than need. So I started at that, and have stopped eating out of boredom, but I also realised that taking this rule too seriously takes away the occasional delicious treat (as you really don’t need it, it just tastes nice). When researching this eating aspect more, I came across resources that proposed gluttony is also about becoming slaves to food as a substance – If we don’t have it at the right time we might get ‘hangry’, you might not know why you are having something as you ‘need it right now’, and you might be led to eating food of poor quality in high quantity.

Over time this behaviour pattern with any substance has aversive effects. Why? Dopamine is the answer!

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that motivates to engage in pleasurable activities, such as eating, smoking, gambling, videogames, and so on. This can over time lead to addiction due to reducing the sensitivity of dopamine receptors, increasing the threshold of the pleasure experience and making us engage in a given activity more. It also leads to the reduced ability of enjoying (or getting a dopamine response from) less ‘addictive’ things in life, such as reading, hiking, crafting, exercise. We become adapted to the high and quick dopamine release when engaging in the prior mentioned activities, while behaviours that might benefit our mental and physical state become less and less desirable to engage in.

This is where self-restraint plays a powerful tool – The ability to say no to inviting pleasurable experiences does not only heighten your enjoyment when you do allow yourself to engage in those, but also makes simple things in life better. You become more grateful and accepting of the non-addictive parts of life, while giving into gluttonous behaviour reduces the enjoyment we can experience and enslaves you to the quick and high dopamine releasing activities.

This makes self-restraint a really important habit to adopt! It takes time to build habits, so don’t rush this. I recommend writing down each activity you did during the day and rating from 1-10 how much you actually enjoyed it through reflection, and how much it meant to you and your growth as a person (see my example below). Once you learn what does not matter to you and your life, cut down on those things and learn to say no, despite their temptation. Restraining yourself will be hard at first, but it will form your life around activities you find actually meaningful, rather than wasting your time.

During the day, it helps to keep note of what you have been up to and track its enjoyment and meaning, which leads you initiate positive changes.

So, remember: Practice and effort lead you to adopt habits that will easily let you say no through trained self-discipline, and ultimately you will enjoy life a lot more 🙂 During this next week, I will be focussing on being more charitable and less greedy, which is one I am excited for, as I have always favoured giving over receiving! Let’s see what that says about me…