With the holiday season fast approaching, steering clear of sweets and treats is about to get harder than ever. But a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Wyoming could help consumers when it comes to achieving their goals.
The study revealed that when consumers are most successful in achieving their goals when they take temptation into consideration and proactively plan to stay away from it.
“People rely on self-control strategies,” the researchers explained. “The use of these strategies can be planned ahead of time, before a temptation is directly experienced. And, planning self-control ahead of time may be critically involved in achieving long-term goals.”
Planning is key
To see what role planning played in consumers’ ability to achieve their goals, the researchers compiled five self-control strategies that the study participants tested out.
The strategies included distraction, situation selection, reappraisal, situation modification, and response inhibition. Of the five options, the researchers learned that all but response inhibition were successful in helping participants reach their goals.
Response inhibition requires consumers to face their temptation head-on and then make the active choice to turn it down, a task that is not only difficult to plan for but is incredibly difficult in the moment.
For those who struggle with temptation, especially as the holidays roll around, it’s the perfect time to plan ways to stay on top of healthy eating. Planning to use these self-control skills ahead of time could be beneficial.
Distraction can help consumers by redirecting their attention away from the source of the temptation. Similarly, choosing situations that are free of temptations, or making choices that allow them to actively avoid temptation, is another method of self-control.
Reappraisal is another option, which involves consumers reframing how they think about temptation. If junk food is what’s tempting, this tactic could be as simple as consumers changing their inner dialogue around junk food. Rather than thinking about how much they want it, they can instead remind themselves that too much sugar could cause a stomachache.
Lastly, the researchers recommend that consumers make subtle changes to their situation if they can’t avoid the temptation entirely. This could involve enlisting others to help clear the space of any junk food.
Trying out any of the above strategies could make a big difference for consumers who are looking to stay healthy during the holiday season and in the months that come afterwards.
“We found evidence suggesting that participants sometimes formed plans for how to manage temptations and that these plans were indeed related to the initiation of diverse self-control strategies,” said researchers Ben Wilkowski and Zach Williamson. “People can, indeed, proactively initiate self-control. And those who do so are better able to make progress toward their long-term goals.”