The ability to think before you act is not a gift that everyone has. When emotions take hold of us, it can be very difficult not to get carried away by impulses, so in many cases we can make decisions that we may regret soon after.
However, be able to control impulsivity which sometimes invading our minds is not at all an impossible task, so here are a number of guidelines or recommendations that can help us calm that sense of urgency.
What do we mean by impulsivity?
In psychology, impulsivity is defined as a cognitive style that is characterized by the predisposition of the person to act considerably quickly, unexpectedly and disproportionately, which involves a lack of prior thought and an inability to predict the effects or consequences. that their actions may imply.
However, this reaction should not occur all the time, but is usually typical of emotionally charged situations or contexts or in the face of events that may be perceived by the person as threatening.
According to the different theories that can be found within cognitive psychology, impulsivity is conceptualized as a multifactorial trait that encompasses all kinds of behaviors performed without a prior process of reasoning or thinking. Likewise, this way of acting eliminates any possibility of anticipating and taking into account the undesirable effects of these behaviors.
However, not all impulsive behavior has to involve negative consequences. There are some occasions when it is necessary to act quickly and spontaneously; are those times when we don’t have too much time to assess whether our reaction will be appropriate or not, Since we will only know the consequences after having realized them.
The secret, then, is not to abuse compulsive behaviors, because they create a habit, but to be able to discern when they are appropriate and when they are not.
Although impulsivity can be seen as another personality trait, it must not be pathologicalThere are a number of mental disorders or alterations which 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 for controlling impulsivity
Fortunately, there are a number of guidelines that people with high impulsivity can follow to exert some control over behaviors that are motivated by emotions. Below we will see a series of recommendations to not always get carried away by our impulses:
1. Know what is causing it
The first step in initiating a series of changes in the way we act 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 write down any situations in which we acted impulsively, noting which situation or stimulus caused that response, how we felt, and what our reaction or how we acted was.
In this way, we will be aware of the events and emotions that reinforce our impulsivity, so that by detecting these situations in time, we will be able to react more effectively.
2. Count to three
The moment we become aware of what situations generate all kinds of impulsive responses in us, we can 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 reflectionTherefore, our first step will be to learn how to delay the onset of this response.
Although it seems easier said than done, just by trying to let a few seconds pass our brains are able to think briefly and our emotions will look much calmer. Thus, we will improve our ability to deal with the tension, emotions and thoughts that cause the impulse response.
So that it is effective and becomes a routine we have to run this model constantly in all situations, regardless of rush or need.
3. Generate self-instructions
Unfortunately, it often happens that even though we have been successful in following the previous two guidelines, our impulsiveness can arise in the same way. Because thanks to them, we can delay our response but not make it disappear.
Therefore. What can we do to help respond so effectively? Use the self-instructions. Telling ourselves what actions we can take or how we will react to a situation will allow us to think about it and perceive whether it is an effective reaction or not.
The development of the internal dynamics of language, even verbalization aloud, allows us to be aware of our thoughts and therefore to correct them more easily.
5. Harness our energy
In some cases, the problem of impulsivity is given by excess energy in the person, Which releases him at the least appropriate times. Knowing this, people who feel identified with this pattern of behavior can channel this energy through exercise.
Activities that involve a lot of energy expenditure can be useful in learning to control our impulsivity and only use it when it is most appropriate.
6. Try to relax
In cases where the person is unable to channel their excess energy, they may try to reduce the tension they generate. Perform relaxation exercises, meditation or activities like yoga, will allow us to maintain a natural state of relaxation which will help decrease impulse responses.
Likewise, if our daily routine is characterized by being very stressful, it is quite possible that our tendency to act impulsively is greater, so try to reduce stress levels through good organization of the day accompanied by small exercises. . a great help to the person.
7. Think about alternatives
Be aware of our way of acting, we can develop alternative guidelines for action and reflection. If we manage to do these behaviors enough times, they will become a habit and reduce the problem of impulsivity.
8. Be consistent
If we take the consequences of our actions seriously, and the extent or effect that our behaviors can have on other people, we will be better able to think before we act.