Many researchers agree that personality is made up of 5 unique traits: Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Openness, Neuroticism, and Extraversion. Members on the Evidation platform were recently invited to complete a survey that measured conscientiousness.
What is conscientiousness?
Conscientiousness describes the degree to which a person is organized, determined, and likely to follow norms and rules.
- High scorers tend to work hard to achieve their goals and complete tasks they’ve started. They also tend to get higher grades in school and perform better in many jobs, but are more likely to experience perfectionism and fear of failure.
- Low scorers tend to act spontaneously instead of making plans. While they may be a bit disorganized, they’re also more likely to be flexible with decision making, and able to bounce back from setbacks. Overall, they may find it easier to look at the big picture than to pay attention to details.
Why does conscientiousness matter for health?
Research has found that individuals who are high in conscientiousness tend to live longer and healthier lives. Why? Individuals who are high in conscientiousness tend to be rule followers, and are more likely to follow health recommendations. For example, on average, conscientious people drink less alcohol, eat healthier, and are more likely to wear seat belts.
Conscientious people may also have healthier coping mechanisms–that is, ways to deal with negative life events–than individuals who are less conscientious. For example, people who are conscientious are more likely to try to solve a difficult problem than to use an emotional escape.
For example, a highly conscientious person might think, “How can I fit in daily walking to reduce my cholesterol levels?”
And a less conscientious person might think, “I’ll watch TV now and think about my cholesterol tomorrow.”
What does this mean for me?
Although research has found that conscientiousness relates to mental and physical health, having a low score doesn’t mean you’re destined to poor health. Regardless of your own conscientiousness, you can use what research has uncovered about personality and health to improve your own wellbeing.
If you’d like to increase your conscientious behavior for better health, aim to set small, achievable goals. Below are some techniques you may find useful:
- Reflect on how to avoid or overcome obstacles. Imagine your desired future self and think about the obstacles you may face in becoming that person. For example, if your goal is to become a less distracted driver, an obstacle might be that you’re eager to look at your phone whenever you see an incoming message. One way to overcome this obstacle might be to set your phone to “do not disturb” when driving so that you can’t see the alerts and are reminded to break the habit of looking.
- Create “if-then” plans for handling situations related to your health goals. For example, if you want to reduce your tobacco consumption, your if-then plan may look like this: “If I crave a cigarette, then I’ll take a five minute walk instead.”
- Track your progress and celebrate small victories. For example, if your goal is to walk more, set a small, specific, and achievable goal: “I’ll walk for 5 minutes every morning after I finish my coffee.” As your walks become a habit, increase the time of your walks, but be careful not to let missed walks discourage you–you can pick up again tomorrow!
…and don’t forget, start small to set yourself up for success!