The Scenario
Do you believe in the notion of 'retail therapy'?
Sam Savings Sam

Savings Sam
Definitely not. If I'm feeling stressed, I'll take a walk - not take out my credit card.
Bonnie Balanced Bonnie

Balanced Bonnie
Rarely. I try not to purchase anything I may regret later, but I will admit that I've gotten caught up and made some silly purchases without thinking in the past.
Ian Impulsive Ian

Impulsive Ian
What better to take your mind off things than a brand new gadget or toy? Can't put a price on happiness, right?

 

Part I

The inability to control impulsive behavior has long been linked with substance abuse. For those in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction, impulse control is essential to successful recovery.

PRINCIPLE #1 - Know your risks
Assess what areas of your life have caused troubles for you as it relates to impulse control. Some people have trouble with procrastination. Others have problems with drinking too much or eating too much. Still others are "hot tempered" and have trouble controlling their anger. Still others find it challenging managing their spending impulses ofetn gettgn themselves into financial or debt troubles. Can you identify the areas of your life where impulse control gets you into trouble? Better yet, ask someone who knows you well to answer this question. They may have a better perspective on your issues with impulse control than you do. In fact, they likely do.
PRINCIPLE #2 - Plan for your risks
Once you have identified your particular impulse control risks, you can better plan for them and develop a productive problem solving action plan. Let social engineering help you. For example, if eating too much is a problem for you, then consider ways to keep problematic foods out of your environment. If drinking too much is a problem, perhaps keep alcohol out of the home. If shopping is a problem, consider avoiding the malls or getting rid of your credit cards. If friends, family, or associates encourage you in a negative way (e.g., having "drinking buddies"), consider altering who you spend time with or how you spend time with these individuals or groups. Social engineering is very helpful if you take it seriously. Alter your environment to help you cope better with impulse control. Please note that I am not encouraging you to merely repress impulses or to deny them. Rather, I'm suggesting that you learn to better manage them in a productive and healthy way by managing your environment better.
PRINCIPLE #3 - Count to 10... a lot!
If you can delay action on your impulses you can often overcome them. There really is something to be said for counting to 10 (of course, count slowly). Or if counting slowly is unlikely, then count to 10 in another language. For some people, they may want to count to 100 in another language!
PRINCIPLE #4 - Be mindful
Being attentive to your feelings, impulses, and desires in a non judgmental way by noticing them without attaching to them in a mindful manner can be very helpful. Remember, just because you have an impulse doesn't mean you have to act on it!
PRINCIPLE #5 - Get corrective feedback

It's hard to change behavior without ongoing corrective feedback. Can those who are close to you assist by giving you corrective feedback when you are acting on impulses in a problematic manner? Of course, you don't want friends and family to be nagging you but if they can helpfully and without judgment point out behaviors that you might not notice then you may make progress on your goal to better control impulses.

PRINCIPLE #6 - Rome wasn't built in a day. Don't give up.

Behavior change is hard. It's very hard! The odds are high that you'll need to work on it over time and that you'll make progress sometimes with several steps forward and several steps backwards. Don't give up. Any progress in the right direction is indeed progress and you might try to be gentle with yourself knowing that Rome wasn't built in a day.

There are no magic or simple answers when it comes to better controlling and managing your impulses and behavior change in general. But there are principles for success. Try these out and see how they work for you.

[SOURCE: 6 Principles to Best Manage Impulses, Psychology Today]

Previous PageNext Page