5 Simple Ways to Increase Mental Control

5 Simple Ways to Increase Mental Control
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Written and verified by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 28 July, 2022

We call it mental control, self-control, or self-determination. Whatever you call it, it is a very deceitful concept. Westerners have a real obsession with controlling everything, even ourselves. However, it is an impossible goal to achieve in its entirety. Of course, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to improve.

One thing we can do, however, is learn how to manage our emotions in a more intelligent way. This implies increasing mental control over our irrational impulses. We all have a kind of wild will inside of us. It helps us be bold, but it also plays tricks on us, especially when we are angry or afraid.

“He who conquers others is strong. He who conquers himself, is mighty.”

-Lao Tzu

There are ways to domesticate and channel those fierce impulses that sometimes invade us. It is reasonable that they appear form time to time and take the helm for a few moments. However, when these emotions are always in control, it becomes a problem. That is when we must stop and practice our mental control. Here are some simple steps to help you improve your self-control:

1. Self-knowledge increases mental control

We all think we know ourselves. However, this is not always true. Every person is different, and we can change depending on our mood and situation as well. Human beings are so complex. Many of us cannot identify our deepest motivations or describe our motivations for certain behaviors and habits.

increase mental control brain

It’s not uncommon to hear expressions like “I wasn’t myself” when someone does something reprehensible. But he was himself, perhaps he just didn’t know that side of himself. By increasing self-knowledge, mental control is also increased. We know how we react to different situations and can be prepared.

2. Deactivate autopilot

Going through life in “autopilot” isn’t really living at all. We move from activity to the next, one behavior to the next, without knowing why. We feel that life is just dragging us along and we don’t know the destination.

It is impossible to be aware of everything all the time: we would have to give up our mental lives. We would collapse. What we can do, however, is stop along the way to contemplate where we are and if we are on the path we really want to be on. These pauses bring us greater awareness and, in turn, more mental control.

3. Learn to stop

It is difficult to learn how to stop an impulse. This is especially true if we weren’t taught the importance of impulse control as a child. Maybe we come from violent or dramatic families. So we have learned how to act without thinking when a very intense emotion takes hold of us.

increase mental control calm

Learning to regulate these invasive emotions and to express them in the way we want is a big step forward. It is a habit that can be difficult to acquire. Our brains, specifically our pre-frontal cortex, is not fully developed until after adolescence. This means our impulses will be very difficult to control until then.

Controlling our emotions means making a choice. Do we let the emotion run wild, or do we force ourselves to pause and wait until it passes to act? In doing the latter, we gain a lot, especially in the field of social relations.

4. Chew and digest frustration

Everyone has experienced frustration (that feeling that reality does not meet our expectations or when we try hard and fail.) Some frustrations are small, others are giants. A love that was not, a job we did not get, a bill that cannot be paid. . .

The reasons can be many. We are all immersed in a reality that forces us to move past frustration constantly. It is normal. What matters is whether we accept this or not.

It is not easy to learn how to accept, chew and digest frustration. If we do not learn, however, it is easy for frustration to build into rage. This rage then takes over our hearts and dominates our mind and our lives. It is also easy for us to become like those people labeled “hot heads”, who explode at every little thing. Do not let frustration lead you to that.

5. Leave your comfort zone

Leaving our comfort zones brings immense benefits. One of the most important is that it helps us learn to be flexible and adapt. This, in turn, stimulates the development of our intelligence, both logical and emotional. So, finally, almost as a side effect, we become more tolerant of our own emotions.

increase mental control

We are not machines. We don’t have to “work” correctly all the time. The issue of mind control should always be seen as relative, especially when it generates a lot of pressure. Mastery of our emotions increases when anxiety decreases and especially when we have learned strategies to express the energy behind our emotions in a healthy way.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Monsell, S. (1996). Control of mental processes. In V. Bruce (Ed.), Unsolved mysteries of the mind: Tutorial essays in cognition (pp. 93–148). Hove, UK: Erlbaum.
  • Coltheart M (2006) What has functional neuroimaging told us about the mind (so far)? Cortex;42:323–331

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.