How to control impulsivity? 8 tips that help
The ability to think before acting is not a gift possessed by all people. When emotions invade us, it can be highly complicated not to get carried away by impulses, which is why we can often make decisions that we can regret shortly afterwards.
However, be able to control the impulsiveness that occasionally invade our mind is not an impossible task at all, so we offer a series of guidelines or recommendations that can help us to calm this sense of urgency.
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What do we understand by impulsivity?
In psychology, impulsivity is defined as a cognitive style that is characterized by predisposing the person to act in a considerably quick, unexpected and excessive, which implies a lack of prior reflection and an inability to foresee the effects or consequences that their actions can suppose
However, this reaction does not have to occur at all times, but usually is typical of Situations or contexts with a high emotional load or before events that may be perceived by the person as threatening.
According to the different theories that we can find within cognitive psychology, impulsivity is conceptualized as a multifactorial feature that encompasses all types of behaviors carried out without a process of reasoning or prior reflection. In the same way, this way of acting nullifies any possibility of foreseeing and taking into account the undesired effects of these behaviors.
However, not all impulsive behaviors necessarily have to imply negative consequences. There are certain occasions when it is necessary to act quickly and spontaneously; are those moments when we do not have too much time to evaluate if our reaction is going to be appropriate or not , since we will not know the consequences until after they are made.
Therefore, the secret lies in not abusing compulsive behaviors, as these create a habit, but in being able to discern at what times they are appropriate in which they do not.
Even though impulsivity can be considered as a personality trait, so it does not have to be pathological , there are a series of disorders or mental disorders that include this way of acting as one of its characteristic symptoms. These include bipolar disorder, autism, ADHD or borderline and antisocial personality disorders.
8 tips to control impulsivity
Luckily, there are a series of guidelines that people with high impulsivity can carry out to exercise some control over behaviors that are driven by emotions. We'll see now a series of recommendations so as not to let ourselves be carried away by our impulses :
1. Know what causes it
The first step in initiating a series of changes in our way of acting impulsively is know what stimuli or situations cause these behaviors . The reason is that it will always be much easier for us to avoid what we can predict.
A good way to start is to make a record of all those situations in which we have acted impulsively, noting what situation or stimulus has caused that response, how we have felt and what our reaction or way of acting has been.
In this way, we will be aware of the events and emotions that enhance our impulsiveness, so by detecting these situations with time we can respond more effectively.
2. Count to three
The moment we become aware of what situations generate all kinds of impulsive responses in us, we will be able to begin to change the way we react.
The main characteristic of impulsivity is that the answer is given very quickly without giving rise to any kind of reflection , therefore our first step will be to learn to delay the appearance of said response.
Although it seems easier to say than to do, just by trying to let a few seconds pass, our brain is able to reflect briefly and our emotions will be much calmer. So we will improve our ability to handle the tension, emotions and thoughts that trigger the impulsive response.
For this to be effective and to become routine We must carry out this pattern in a constant manner in all situations, regardless of the haste or need.
3. Generate self instructions
Unfortunately, in many cases it happens that, although we have managed to carry out the two previous guidelines, our impulsiveness can arise in the same way. Because thanks to them we can delay our response but not make it disappear.
Thus. What can we do to achieve an equally effective response? Make use of self-instructions . Telling ourselves what steps we can take or how we are going to respond to a situation will allow us to reflect on it and perceive whether it is an effective reaction or not.
Developing internal language dynamics, or even verbalizing out loud, allows us to be aware of our thoughts and, therefore, correct them more easily.
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5. Take advantage of our energy
In some cases, the problem of impulsivity is given by an excess of energy in the person , which releases it at the least appropriate times. Knowing this, people who feel identified with this behavior pattern can channel this energy by performing physical exercise.
Activities that suppose a high energy expenditure can be useful to learn to control our impulsiveness and use it only in those moments in which it is really opportune.
6. Try to relax
In those cases in which the person is unable to channel their excess energy, can try to reduce the tension that this generates. Perform relaxation exercises, meditation or activities such as yoga, will allow us to maintain a natural state of relaxation that will help reduce impulsive responses.
Similarly, if our daily routine is characterized by being very stressful, it is very possible that our tendency to act impulsively is greater, therefore trying to reduce stress levels through a good organization of the day accompanied by small routine relaxation exercises It will also be very helpful for the person.
- Related article: "6 easy relaxation techniques to combat stress"
7. Think alternatives
By being aware of our way of acting, we can develop guidelines for action and alternative thinking . If we manage to perform these behaviors enough times will become a habit and reduce the problem of impulsivity.
8. Be consistent
If we take seriously the consequences of our actions, as well as the magnitude or effect that our behaviors can generate on other people, we will be better able to reflect before acting.