Learning how to not be impulsive can seem tricky for people who aren’t used to it. Acting on urges may feel like an immediate reflex that you can’t control. But there are tips, tricks, and practical strategies that you can use to control your impulses. So in this article, we’ll discuss 5 of the most popular ones so that you can choose the best option for your needs…
How To Not Be Impulsive – Overview
If you’re wondering how to not be impulsive, then you’re not alone. Impulsivity is something that many of us experience and can be a burden if left unchecked. Impulsive behaviour can negatively impact our lives and destroy our personal relationships. It can play a role in binge eating, alcoholism, gambling addiction, and overspending. These issues can take over our lives and stop us from achieving our true potential. We all know of someone who’s lost their job, family, or home due to a problem like this…
But asking how to NOT be impulsive means you’re already taking control.
By looking for ideas and solutions, you’re taking the lead instead of being a slave to your impulses. So let’s dive into 5 ways that you can avoid impulsive behaviours for yourself…
#1 – Identify your triggers
The first step in learning how not to be impulsive is identifying your triggers. What makes you want to do something impulsively? What is it that sets you off? For most people, there will be a distinct trigger that acts like the first domino in a chain of events. If you can identify the first domino and stop it from falling, then you can prevent all of the subsequent results from occurring. Examples of common triggers include stress, loneliness, anger, and visual cues like food adverts.
#2 – Challenge your thoughts
Professional therapists use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help patients challenge their negative thoughts and beliefs. Instead of going with the usual flow, it teaches you to question innate assumptions that aren’t necessarily true. CBT can help you to disrupt negative thought patterns that cause impulsive behaviours and eventually rewire your brain to think differently. In clinical studies, over 80% of patients treated with CBT were able to maintain control over their behaviours for the long-term.
“In clinical studies, over 80% of patients treated with CBT were able to maintain control over their behaviours for the long-term.”
#3 – Try Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a practice that can help you to manage your impulsive thoughts and feelings. Instead of trying to ignore or resist them, mindfulness teaches you to acknowledge and experience them. Meditation techniques like urge surfing can be used to ‘ride out’ the urges until they disappear. This might sound unlikely, but most impulsive urges last for less than 30 minutes. So, if you can ride them out for half an hour then they’ll vanish completely.
#4 – Do Things That Relax You
Stress is a big trigger for most impulsive behaviours. If we’ve had a fight with a loved one then we reach for a tub of ice-cream. If we’ve had a hectic week at work then we spend the weekend out drinking. But by doing things that relax you throughout the week, you can reduce your overall feelings of stress. If this is one of your triggers, then doing things that make you calm can reduce impulsive episodes. Try activities that fully engage your mind so that there’s no space for other thoughts. Sports or hobbies that require coordination or concentration can be particularly helpful. So why not blow off some steam by joining a boxing club, taking dance lessons, or learning a craft.
#5 – Set Up Tripwires
Setting up tripwires can make it harder to act impulsively. For some people, this involves not keeping snacks or sweet things in the house. If they get the urge to binge, then they need to go down to the supermarket in order to get the food. In some cases, this extra barrier will be enough to resist the impulse to overeat.
If you’re a shopaholic who buys things without thinking, then keep your credit card in a container of frozen water. This way you can’t simply grab it from your purse or wallet to buy something. You’ll need to wait for the container to thaw before you can get to it which gives you time to consider the purchase more carefully.
Tripwires are a short-term solution to impulsive behaviours but they won’t resolve the underlying problem. For that, you’re better off seeking help from a professional and undergoing cognitive behavioural therapy. This is why it’s a core component in our Beat the Binge Online Program. Instead of simply teaching you to avoid the behaviours, it addresses the root cause and reprograms your mind to think differently. Learn more about the course and how it works here.