Imagine how different our daily lives would be if we could tolerate more discomfort, increase our patience, delay gratification, and refrain from impulsive responses.
All of these qualities were found to increase after subjects were primed with a spiritually oriented task in a study conducted by researchers from Queen’s University.
Participants were randomly assigned to either unscramble sentences that contained words like “God,” “divine,” or “spirit,” or sentences that contained spiritually neutral words.
Subjects then performed different tasks that put their self-control to the test.
Some participants drank an orange juice and vinegar concoction, receiving a nickel for every ounce they drank, to test their ability to endure discomfort.
Other subjects were tested for their capacity to delay gratification. They had the choice of either receiving $5 on the spot or $6 if they could wait one week.
A third test measured how persistent participants were. They were asked to solve a puzzle designed to be impossible to finish, after they had already completed a mentally draining task.
No matter the task, researchers found that subjects who received the spiritual prime were better at maintaining their self-control than the control group.
If self-control increased from simply unscrambling spiritually oriented sentences, can we develop our own self-control through spiritual practices?
I think this study suggests we can.
How might this matter? It wouldn’t take me even 5 minutes to come up with a list of issues that require determination. Being more patient, having the persistence to stick to a diet or workout regimen, or the ability to moderate impulses are all practical tools.
You can find the entire study in Psychological Science.
In general, when I think of spirituality, I think in entirely other directions, but I thought you might find this study interesting.
This could be a pragmatic solution to developing these useful skills.
Meanwhile, we’ve put together a webinar series on Spirituality in Healing featuring some of the world’s top experts including Joan Borysenko, Ram Dass, and Caroline Myss.
The webinars are free to attend, you just need to sign up.
How do you think spirituality might help a patient increase their self-control? Please leave a comment below.