Self-regulation: what is it and how can we promote it?

Although sometimes we don’t realize it, in almost everything we do we manage what we do.

We feel anger and we express it or not depending on the situation, we assess whether or not to say something to someone, we choose one way or another to act to achieve a goal, we postpone the anger. ‘obtaining immediate satisfaction to achieve another major later … We talk about self-regulation. In this article, we’ll do a brief analysis of what this concept entails.

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The concept of self-regulation

We can understand self-regulation or self-control as the ability or set of processes that we use to manage ourselves successfully. This ability allows us to analyze the environment and react accordingly and to be able to modify our performance or perspective if necessary. In short, it allows us to orient our thoughts, our emotions and our behavior towards a good adaptation to the environment and the fulfillment of our desires and expectations according to contextual circumstances.

Self-regulation is not only given at the behavioral level, but we also apply it when we manage our thoughts, emotions and our ability to motivate (aspect with which it is largely related).

All the processes implemented are largely conscious, requiring the ability to monitor oneself or guide one’s own behavior, to self-assess or to make a value judgment on one’s own actions, feelings or thoughts, to self-direct or to focus on a goal and on oneself – reinforcing or obtaining internal satisfaction before the accomplishment of it or the accomplishment of the conduct directed at it. Without these abilities, we would not be able to adapt adaptively.

Where do we regulate ourselves from?

It is a skill which is not completely innate but which is developed and reinforced according to our learning and the circumstances and stimuli that are part of our lives. Biologically, it largely corresponds to the development of the frontal lobe, and in particular the prefrontal lobe.

An alteration or delay in this development will cause greater difficulty in regulating its behavior. But the presence of connections between this area and other structures such as the limbic system, basal ganglia or the cerebellum is also essential.

Main elements that influence self-regulation

The concept of self-regulation encompasses a broad category of different skills which may include the ability to inhibit behavior, self-monitoring, mental flexibility, self-assessment, motivation or the establishment and monitoring of plans. , being part of a large number of executives. the functions.

They also influence the ability to self-regulate the ability to think about one’s own thinking or metacognition, The perception of control over situations, expectations and the perception of self-efficacy. It is facilitated and largely depends on the self-instruction we give ourselves and allow ourselves to drive. The anticipation of rewards or the avoidance of sanctions and their characteristics will also participate in this self-regulation.

Associated disorders and injuries

Self-regulation allows us to manage our own activity and make it adaptive, so it is essential for our proper functioning in society. The fact that we cannot regulate ourselves properly will generate problems such as difficulty starting or stopping certain behaviors, identifying factors such as the need to change strategy, a general slowdown, a lower level of efficiency and productivity and difficulties. attentional focus.

An example of a disorder or problem in which there is a decrease in the ability to self-regulate is ADHD., In which the subject finds it difficult to fix his attention or control his own behavior. or autism spectrum disorders (in which there are difficulties in managing emotions and coping with changes, in addition to social and communication disabilities). Other mental disorders also cause alterations in self-regulation, such as impulse control disorders, anxiety or affective disorders. Also in schizophrenia.

There are also self-regulation issues in subjects who have frontal lobe injuries, especially with regard to the prefrontal. In dementias, traumatic brain injuries, brain tumors or strokes that affect the prefrontal and / or its connections.

How to increase it

In cases where the capacity for self-regulation is poorly adaptive or has not been fully developed, it can be very useful to implement different practices to increase it.

In this sense, the type of activities, treatments and therapies to be applied will depend on the reasons for the lack of self-regulation, its consequences or the location of the main deficit. Training and facilitation in the use of metacognition and reflection, deferment of judgment, and generation of alternatives or emotional education are generally recommended. Modeling and the use of self-instructions are also very useful. In some cases, it may be necessary to submit appropriate assistance to tackle existing limitations..

An example of therapy based on this is Rehm’s Self-Control Therapy, which is typically used in cases of depression. Other therapeutic elements to use could include training in social skills and assertiveness or problem solving, as well as occupational therapy.

Bibliographical references:

  • Forner, E. and Alonso, J. (2014). Theories of educational self-regulation: comparison and theoretical reflection. Psychopedagogy 20 (1); 11-22.
  • Zimmerman, BJ and Moylan, AR (2009). Self-regulation: where metacognition and motivation intersect. In DJ Hacker, J. Dunlosky and AC Graesser (Eds.), Handbook of Metacognition in Education (pp. 299-315). New York: Routledge.

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