I like food! I happen to like ice cream in the middle of the night after having red velvet or carrot cake (either are favorites of mine) for dinner. This will happen if I don’t control my impulses. Impulse control is not a very pleasant topic. Impulse control??? Yuck! Who wants to talk about that?
Improving impulse control can help us accomplish a lot of things. For me, it would help with weight loss (which I am reluctantly revealing as a current goal on a public website!), improving focus on my work, reducing the chances of me overreacting to others, running yellow/red lights, and a host of other things.
How about you? What would improving impulse control allow you to do? What problems would improving impulse control allow you to solve. Most of us have a host of things. Improving impulse control requires at least two things: interrupting the impulse and maintaining control.
Plan to Interrupt the Impulse
This is both the most basic and most difficult part of improving impulse control. You are aware of the things that create problems for you. Knowing my risks and then planning to interrupt them helps me put a pause between impulse and action. Often, simply putting a delay between impulses and action will be enough to overcome them. Counting to “10” slowly really does help. There’s a reason people keep telling us to do it. It allows for alternative thoughts to kick in.
Maybe you need to close your email application while you’re working. Perhaps you need to put your phone in a hard to reach location to avoid social media notifications. If you’re trying to lose weight, plan for having healthy snacks that are easier to access than the closest fast food restaurant or other source of over-indulgence. Perhaps you need to only carry enough cash to get you through the day rather than keeping your debit or credit cards with you. Identify your risks and plan ahead. If you’re hot-tempered, practice being calmer before you get into social situations, particularly those with whom you have a history of conflict.
Maintaining impulse control is just as hard, if not harder, than interrupting the impulse in the first place. It requires a commitment. Remind yourself of why you’re trying to change. For me, weight loss is about feeling better, being here longer for my children, and eventually hanging out a long time with my grandchildren when they come along. Those are pretty important.
Reducing stress is an important part of maintaining impulse control. When we’re stressed, we are much more likely to react to impulses rather than delay. This happens in large part because stress puts the brain in a “react quickly” mode. Breathing exercises are a great way to reduce this. Physical exercise works as well. Make sure to spend some time doing something you enjoy every week. Fortunately for me, my activities always include music at least twice a week. Find things to reduce stress.
The good news for all of us is improving impulse control is like building a muscle. The more we do it, the more we can do. Know your risks. Plan to interrupt the impulse. Remind yourself of why you are changing. Reduce stress. You can do it!
How have you changed things so that you could delay reacting to impulses and what has worked best for you? Leave your comments below. We would love to hear from you!