Temperance is Key to Your Psychological Well-Being

Temperance is a fundamental human virtue. It allows you to stay calm and focused on stormy days. It means you carry out your life in a measured, thoughtful, and controlled manner, whatever the circumstances you face.
Temperance is Key to Your Psychological Well-Being
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

There are some human virtues and strengths that we should all develop much more. Temperance is one such quality. It’s understood as the capacity for self-control and self-regulation of oneself and is a cardinal point of well-being. In fact, it’s that internal compass that guides you to find calm in the middle of a storm. The psychological ability to manage stress, fear, or anguish.

Saint Thomas said that temperance is a disposition of the mind that contains impulses. For Aristotle, who was a great analyst of the soul, it was equivalent to intelligence. As a matter of fact, this particular dimension, that’s sometimes forgotten by the world of psychology, yet is widely explored by philosophy, contains valuable human tools that are well worth promoting.

In times of constant change, uncertainties, and pressures, it’s good to have an inner anchor. In fact, staying calm goes beyond being moderate or containing certain of your reactions. Above all, it’s a perspective, an approach to your well-being that’s as interesting as it’s valid.

“There is no difference between knowledge and temperance; for he who knows what is good and embraces it, who knows what is bad and avoids it, is learned and temperate.”


Woman thinking about learning to develop temperance

Psychological temperance

Temperance is a recent area of interest for psychology. As a matter of fact, Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson were the first ones to mention it, in 2004. It was in their classic book, Character Strengths and Virtues that they included, among the set of six virtues, temperance.

Previously, the approach that Aristotle promoted, by linking this dimension with prudence, justice, and courage, stood out above all the rest. These character traits together made up the display of intelligence in an individual. Likewise, it should be noted that medieval philosophers viewed temperance as the genitrix virtutum (the mother of all virtues).

The significance of this term is more important than you might think. This is because the temperate person possesses an inescapable talent for handling the complexity of life. That’s something we all aspire to. It means being able to face things calmly, but also being insightful. It’s controlling your impulses, but without losing your sensitivity.

In the light of this, it’s easy to understand why psychology shows a particular interest in temperance right now. Indeed, developing it can be key to your daily well-being. Let’s discover why.

Temperance as a mediator in your relationships

The journal, Frontiers in Psychology recently published an investigation conducted by five universities of great international prestige. Their aim was to show that developing temperance in people should be one more area of psychological intervention.

One of its benefits is being able to empower ourselves with better skills in social and emotional relationships. Temperance is a human virtue that’s made up of a series of very specific components:

  • The ability to forgive. The temperate person is one who knows how to forgive and not hold grudges. Furthermore, to move forward in a serene way, free of hatred, resentment, and internal fractures.
  • Humility. The humble approach uses no tricks when relating to others. In fact, according to the authors of this study, humility is the oil that greases our social relationships and facilitates them. Therefore, being humble brings harmony to every relationship.

If temperance acts as a mediator in our relationships, this will also be due to the exercise of patience. The attitude of living in the here and now, directing the gaze and the heart towards what’s relevant in each circumstance, is the key to well-being.

Mastering the art of patience allows you to cushion the weight of stress and the itch of “I want it now”. This allows your relationships to flow in a more rewarding way.

The tempered mind, the self-control guided approach

You might ask why self-control is so important for your psychological well-being. It’s for several reasons. The first, and most obvious, is so you don’t regret anything you do. The second, to live in harmony in your environment and in each situation, adapting better to each circumstance.

Let’s think about it. The person with adequate temperance is the one who manages to regulate their emotions and impulses to promote more effective behaviors. They can discipline their mind to successfully conquer any proposed objective. Who wouldn’t want something like that?

Woman with a light in her mind and her eyes closed thinking about temperance

Temperance, the best ally of intelligence

Although temperance was included in the manual of human virtues defined by Seligman (exponent of positive psychology), it’s also integrated into another approach. This is the so-called second wave of positive psychology.

This is a perspective initiated by the psychologists Itai Ivtzan, Tim Lomas, and Kate Hefferon. They open up a new approach, a new vision to remind us of something rather obvious. The fact that life has some extremely dark parts and you can’t always run away from them. Indeed, sometimes you’re forced to go through dark tunnels, hollows, and winding roads.

Temperance is a great companion in those gloomy days. In fact, it’s the best ally to your intelligence because it gives you serenity, perspective, and calm. You’re measured, so you can make better decisions. You have clarity, to see things more clearly. There’s light to guide you along the way without the need to rush. Finally, there’s self-control to control your impulses, emotions, and frustrations.

Make a  start today on developing temperance, and eventually, it’ll prove to be your best virtue.

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.

  • Bollinger, R. A. (2018). Reflections on and future directions in humility and forgiveness research. Res. Hum. Dev. 15, 88–93. doi: 10.1080/15427609.2017.1411745
  • Collins, D., McAnnally-Linz, R., and Rosa, R. C. (2020). The Joy of Humility: The Beginning and End of Virtues. United States: Baylor University Press.
  • Ivtzan, I., Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., and Worth, P. (2016). Second Wave Positive Psychology: Embracing the Dark Side of Life. United Kingdom: Routledge.
  • Worthington EL Jr and van Zyl LE (2021) The Future of Evidence-Based Temperance Interventions. Front. Psychol. 12:707598

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