10 Tips To Conquer Impulsive Behavior

woman struggling to control impulsive behavior by overeating
If you struggle with impulsive behavior, your urges often leave you feeling frustrated and upset with yourself. Impulsive behaviors are those you feel like you can’t control, such as helping yourself to a third helping of dessert, making a rude remark to a coworker, or spending a lot of money on an item you don’t actually need. Impulsive behaviors can lead to different kinds of strained relationships, but most importantly, they can strain the relationship you have with yourself!

Conquering impulsivity takes a lot of practice, but with these 10 tips, you can begin finding strategies that help you overcome impulses and think before you act.

Tip 1: Use the “stop and think” method.

When you feel an impulsive urge coming, force yourself to physically stop what you’re doing and start asking yourself questions. For example, you can make yourself think about the following:

  • Is this something that really needs to be said?
  • Will this action be helpful to me or anyone else?
  • If I make this choice now, will I regret it later?

Forcing yourself to stop in the middle of impulsive feelings to have a “mental check in” with your thoughts is a great way to derail an impulsive thought from turning into an impulsive action.

Tip 2: Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

According to ADDitude Magazine, a publication centered around helping those with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), impulsive behaviors increase with a lack of quality sleep.

When you aren’t feeling well rested, you aren’t working at maximum power. This creates a perfect storm of allowing yourself to act without fully thinking things through first. When you get enough sleep, your chances of thinking and acting impulsively diminish.

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Tip 3: Make a “game plan” when you know you’ll be in a situation that triggers impulsive behaviors.

Making a game plan simply refers to having a personal plan to stop an impulsive behavior before it can happen. This is an effective strategy to use when you know you’re about to enter a situation that tends to make you feel impulsive.

For example, if you’re an impulsive buyer, always create a shopping list before entering the store. Force yourself to focus on the items you’ve written on the list–with this concrete tool in your hands, you’ll be less likely to wander around or buy something you don’t need on impulse.

Tip 4: Give yourself permission to have some impulsive moments.

To stop yourself from going overboard with impulsivity, schedule some planned “impulse moments” to keep yourself satisfied and in check.

For example, you can plan the following sort of impulse moments in advance:

  • Set aside a specific amount of “fun money” for impulse shopping each pay period.
  • Let yourself have indulgent treats once per week.
  • Write out a letter to someone you want to speak to in an impulsive way (for example, your boss) – and then destroy the letter afterward

By allowing yourself periodic opportunities to enjoy an impulse, you lessen the chances of having more unplanned (and potentially damaging) impulsivity moments later.

Tip 5: Keep a written reminder of things you need to do, such as a calendar or to-do list.

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Having a written list or record of things you need to get done is a great way to keep yourself anchored in reality. If your impulsive tendencies cause you to unintentionally forgo your responsibilities, reviewing your calendar or to-do list can help ground you back in reality so you can focus on what needs to be done.

Tip 6: Ask yourself lots of “why” questions and reflect on your impulsivity.

When you notice yourself acting impulsively, start asking yourself “why” questions. Most impulsive behaviors have a deeper, underlying cause behind them. Understanding the answers to those “whys” can help you conquer impulsivity for good.

For example, you can ask yourself:

  • Why am I looking for snacks when I’m not hungry?
  • Why do I feel the need to say that to this person?
  • Why am I shopping for these items I don’t need online?
  • Why do I feel the need to behave this way?

Tip 7: Find a better outlet for your impulsive behaviors.

You can channel your impulsivity into other channels besides actually acting on the impulsive feelings.

For example, pretend your impulsivity revolves around interrupting others during a conversation rather than letting them speak. In this situation, you can use a water bottle as an outlet. While others are speaking, take sips of the water–when your mouth is busy (and full of water), it’s tough to blurt out your thoughts and interrupt.

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Tip 8: Incorporate mindfulness practices into your everyday routine.

Mindfulness is a great way to get a better grasp on why you act impulsively. For example, the next time you feel yourself leaning toward an impulsive urge, give yourself a chance to “feel” why you’re being impulsive.

For example, you can address how you’re physically feeling, what you notice about yourself, what you’re feeling, and what’s happening around you. Often, taking note of these “in the moment” details will help you understand what’s igniting your impulsivity.

Tip 9: Find ways to make it harder for yourself to act on impulses.

You can find ways to make it harder to be impulsive. Once you identify a few ways to do this, begin incorporating them into your regular routines.

For example, if you impulse buy at the store, don’t take your checkbook or credit card with you anymore. Instead, take a specific amount of cash and a shopping list so you can’t leave with any additional, unplanned purchases.

Tip 10: Give yourself plenty of chances to embrace calmness throughout the day.

Impulsive behaviors increase when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. To avoid this, give yourself opportunities to relax and calm down throughout the day. For example, step into a cool, dark room for a few moments of undisturbed peace. Keep a playlist of calming music ready for when you need to focus on a task. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel your anxiety levels beginning to rise.

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