What is self-regulation and why is it so important? Self-regulation refers to the way we exert control over our impulses. It is “control [of oneself] by oneself” (Andrea Bell, 2016). It allows us to stay in control and keep our emotions in check. When we learn to self-regulate, we learn to resist impulses and behaviors that may worsen a situation. Self-regulating is not only about learning to control our impulses, according to Bell, it is also being able to cheer ourselves up when we’re down, and having a whole range of emotional and behavioral responses that are well-matched to the demands of our environment” (2016).
In Jewish teachings, the practice of self-regulation is not only encouraged but obligated. Our mission in life is to ascend to higher spiritual levels. How can we do so? By taking control of not only our physical bodies but our emotions as well. “Therefore every man of heart must strive with all of his faculties to reach the ultimate he can achieve of the higher qualities… So that if a man has attained a level of good, he should always desire to ascend to yet a higher level – until he attains the ultimate good whereby he may attain the world of reward, the World-to-Come” (Introduction to the Ways of the Righteous). Striving to attain reward in the next world is the essence of Judaism. How can we ensure our reward in the World-to-Come? We can do so by working on ourselves and learning to self-regulate, and thereby become a more spiritually perfected people.
When we practice self-regulation, we will find many important benefits down the road that may not be so obvious at first. There is a lot of evidence suggesting that those who successfully self-regulate their behavior and emotional responses in their everyday life will enjoy higher levels of well-being. Greater self-regulation is positively associated with well-being for both men and women (Skowron, Holmes, & Sabatelli, 2003). A study conducted in 2016 found the same to be true regarding young people. Adolescents who regularly engaged in self-regulatory behavior had higher levels of well-being than their peers, as well as enhanced life satisfaction, perceived social support, and positive feelings. Those who suppressed their feelings instead of addressing them, however, experienced lower levels of well-being, as well as greater loneliness, worse psychological health, and more negative feelings (Verzeletti, Zammuner, Galli, Agnoli, & Duregger, 2016).
Practicing self-regulation will slowly change our everyday lives for the better, ushering in a sense of calm. We relinquish attempts at controlling the uncontrollable. Instead, we focus our control internally, taking control of ourselves and our emotions. This practice will undoubtedly lead us to a path of spiritual perfection and an overall higher quality of living.