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How to Delay Gratification


Delaying gratification is a powerful emotional tool that can help you to achieve personal goals and live a healthier, happier life. You can use this tool to help you control your spending, manage your weight, and quit unhealthy habits. Delaying gratification is not something that you inherently know how to do, but it is something you can learn how to do.

EditSteps

EditEstablishing Your Motivation

  1. Identify your values. Knowing what is important to you can be a powerful tool for delaying gratification. By taking the time to identify your values, you may find it easier to set useful goals for yourself and steer clear of temptations. Make a list of your values and rank these values in order of importance.[1]
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    • For example, you may value your family, health, career, and hobbies. You may even rank these values in this order.
  2. Set goals. Having some clear goals in mind can also help you to delay gratification. Think about what you want to accomplish as a result of delaying gratification and write these goals down.[2]
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    • For example, you may wish to avoid eating fast food as a way to lose weight. Or, you may wish to avoid spending money on unnecessary items to save for a vacation.
  3. Develop a plan for reaching your goals. Specify what you need to do to accomplish each of your goals. This will also make it easier to delay gratification. Make a list of small things you can do to work towards each of your goals.
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    • For example, if you want to avoid fast food to lose weight, then you could pack lunch to take to work each day, take a different route to and from work to avoid driving past fast food places, and look up healthy alternatives to your favorite fast foods that you can make at home.
  4. Use an app that helps you keep track of your goals or improve yourself. Apps can help you track your progress, get motivation, or strengthen your skills through games or lessons. Choose one that works best with your goals.
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    • Try an app that helps you be the person you want to be, such as a language-learning app, meditation app, or drawing app. You could try Duolingo, Calm, or Sketchpad.
    • You could also try an app that helps you manage your finances, such as Mint.
    • Another option is an app like SuperBetter, which uses games for self-improvement.
  5. Ask friends and family to be supportive. If developing your ability to delay gratification is important to you, then ask friends and family to be supportive. Let them know what you are working on and give them some concrete ways that they can support you.
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    • For example, if you want to get better at delaying gratification to lose weight, then ask them to support you by not trying to entice you to eat more or to eat certain foods, like sweets or fast food.

EditOvercoming Temptations

  1. Distract yourself. The desire to give in to temptation may only last a short while, so distracting yourself may be all you need to do sometimes. When temptation strikes, find a way to distract yourself until the desire to give in to the temptation passes.[3]
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    • For example, if you are craving a cigarette, you could instead make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, go for a walk, or play a video game.
  2. Use a timer to practice delayed gratification. When you feel a craving or desire to give into your temptation, set a timer, starting at 20 minutes. After the timer goes off, check in with yourself to see if you still feel the temptation.
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    • Slowly increase the timer over time. After the first few weeks, increase the time limit to 30 minutes. Continue increasing the time in 5 minute intervals until you reach 1 hr. The goal is to get to the point where you can manage your temptations without using the timer.
  3. Challenge yourself to do a healthy activity before indulging. It’s okay to give in to temptations sometimes. Doing something healthy first will help you maintain balance in your life.
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    • Do 30 minutes of homework, housework, or work toward your personal goals before watching your favorite television program.
    • Work out for 30 minutes before eating a cookie or candy bar.
  4. Hide the temptation. Getting the temptation out of sight can also help you to avoid giving in to it. If the temptation is often visible to you, such as a favorite food, then you could also try covering or hiding it.[4]
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    • For example, if you want some cookies, then put the cookies in the cupboard or somewhere else out of sight.
  5. Think about the temptation abstractly. If you have to look at the temptation, then thinking about it abstractly may also help. Try imagining that the food you find so tempting is another object.[5]
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    • For example, you could imagine that the marshmallow you want to eat is a cotton ball or a cloud.
  6. Daydream. Allowing your mind to wander may also help you to avoid giving into a temptation. The next time temptation strikes, start thinking about whatever comes to mind and don’t redirect yourself for a while. Providing yourself with this freedom may be enough to get the temptation off of your mind.[6]
    Delay Gratification Step 8.jpg
  7. Practice gratitude. Keeping a running list of the things you feel grateful for may also help you to delay gratification. By focusing on all the things you already have and appreciate rather than dwelling on the things you want, you can redirect your thoughts to the present instead of dwelling on what you want in the future.[7]
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    • The items on your gratitude list can be small or large. For example, you may feel grateful for a good cup of coffee, a warm shower, and a beautiful sunset. You may also feel grateful for your good health, your supportive family, or your home.
  8. Focus on the negative effects of instant gratification. This tactic can be another powerful tool for delaying gratification. The next time you are tempted, think about the negative aspects of giving in.[8]
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    • For example, if you want to have a cigarette, think about how many chemicals are in the cigarette, how these chemicals will affect your body, and what diseases these chemicals could lead to over time.
  9. Ask friends and family to hold you accountable. Sometimes you may struggle to resist temptations even though you try your best. Having friends and family members who will hold you accountable if you give in to temptation will help you to stay on track. Let friends and family know that you would appreciate it if they call you out on any mistakes. Make sure they know that this will be helpful to you as you work towards your goals.
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    • For example, if you are trying to control your spending habits through delayed gratification, then your friends and family could point out times when you spend money unnecessarily. This should help to make you more aware of what you are doing.

EditRewarding Yourself

  1. Identify alternative rewards. While you may want to avoid a specific reward, you can still reward yourself with other things. Choose some alternatives to the temptation you want to resist to help keep you motivated when you successfully resist it.
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    • For example, you might reward yourself for resisting sweets all day with a relaxing bubble bath. Or, you could reward yourself for not spending money on frivolous items with a small frivolous item that fits into your budget, such as a new tube of lipstick or a video game.
  2. Make resistance itself your reward. Focusing on the reward and how wonderful it is will only increase your desire to give into temptation. To make it easier to resist the reward, try not focus on the reward. Instead, try to focus on how good it will feel to resist the reward and your reasons for doing so.[9]
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    • For example, if you are trying to resist fast food as a way to lose weight, then don’t dwell on the foods you want to eat. Instead, focus on how good you will feel when you finally lose the weight.
  3. Use positive self-talk. Encouraging yourself is also a great way to reward yourself for your hard work. Try saying some positive things to yourself every day as you work towards your goal.[10]
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    • For example, you might tell yourself, “I am doing such a great job of avoiding fast food!” or “I haven’t spent a dime on frivolous items all day! Way to go, me!”
  4. Tell friends and family about the rewards you are working towards. If your friends and family know what your reward system is, then they can remind you of it from time to time. These occasional reminders may help to keep you motivated and working towards your goals.
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    • For example, if you plan to treat yourself to a pedicure for not eating fast food for a certain amount of time, then let your friends and family know this. Then, they can give you little reminders when you are tempted, such as, “Don’t go to McDonald’s after work! Focus on how good that pedicure is going to feel instead!”

EditSources and Citations

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