Mind & Body

Learn the "HALT" Method to Control Your Impulses

Have you ever bought a new outfit to make up for a bad day at the office or relapsed with an old bad habit because you were too tired to make a healthier choice? Without good coping strategies, it can be easy to succumb to temptation just because of the current state you're in. To avoid giving into impulses you might regret, self-awareness is key. That's where the HALT method comes in.

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HALT and Look Both Ways

HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired — as in, "Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired right now?" This acronym helps to make you stop and think about how you feel before you react to a situation. It may sound simple, but when your basic needs aren't met, rational thinking goes out the door.

HALT is a popular tool in the world of addiction and recovery, but you don't have to be an addict to need it. Everyone is susceptible to letting their emotions influence their decisions. Let's break it down by each letter.

  1. Hunger: This could be either a physical or an emotional need. Without fulfilling your body's nutritional requirements, you lose the ability to operate to your full potential. You might also be "hungry" for affection or validation. Stopping and giving yourself a quick self-assessment is the only way to know.
  2. Anger: While anger is a healthy and normal emotion to experience, it's important to understand what's causing it so you can properly express it. Energetic activities like going for a run or cleaning the house can help you get rid of all that pent-up energy, but don't give into the desire to vent your anger to a friend — science says that will just make you angrier in the long run.
  3. Loneliness: You can still feel lonely while surrounded by large numbers of people. It's easy to isolate yourself when you feel like the people around you don't understand your experience. Instead of making a bad decision because you're lonely, reach out to someone. Once you feel more secure, the impulse may pass.
  4. Tired: Being sleepy takes a toll on your mind and body. Operating on low energy affects your ability to think and cope. When you just "don't feel like it," that can lead to lazy decision making — your groggy mind can't think straight and you want to take the easy way out, even if it might affect your health or your wallet.

Shop Till You Drop

To put this in practice, imagine it in the context of shopping. If you feel an intense need to buy something you could do without, check in on yourself. Using the HALT method gives you the opportunity to stop and think if this purchase will actually make you feel better. Every purchase is for a purpose — if it's not something you need, then it's probably because you think it'll make you feel a certain way. Confident in that new dress? Happier with that new video game? Calmer and more in control with your Starbucks drink? The problem is that it's a temporary lift and doesn't last. Emotions around material items are powerful and easy to give into, especially if you see a reward or a better feeling at the end.

By using the HALT method, you'll be the one in charge. Here's how it would work. You feel a desperate urge to spend too much on a funny T-shirt you don't need, but you stop and think, "When was the last time I ate?", "Am I upset about something?", "Have I reached out to a friend lately?", "Did I sleep well last night?" By taking care of your basic needs first, you'll feel less likely to use your wallet to make yourself feel better.

Self-awareness of your actions is vital to growing every day, and personal growth helps you achieve a happier, more fulfilling life. The "HALT" method can be useful for anyone, whether an addict or not, because everyone is guilty of letting their emotions get in the way sometimes. The next time temptation strikes, HALT and make sure you're taking proper care of yourself.

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For more ways to build self-awareness, read "Why Do I Do That? Psychological Defense Mechanisms and the Hidden Ways They Shape Our Lives" by Dr. Joseph Burgo. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Annie Hartman June 26, 2018

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