Learn the “HALT” Method to Control Your Impulses and Stay Focused Longer
Recently, while having a conversation with my wife about our kids, I realized something:
The impulses that affect children are the same in adults.
That might not sound useful or incredible right now. However, with a bit of explanation, I hope to show you why that’s the case (and then how to use it).
Much of dealing with kids has to do with noticing certain “cues”:
- When they’re hungry
- When they’re tired
- When they want your attention (lonely)
- And, generally, what they don’t like (especially what sets them off)
If you can master these various cues your job as a parent becomes much easier. That’s because any and all of the above impulses cause a child to go into tantrum mode, or at least become frustrated and therefore more difficult for you to handle.
If you can make sure they’re properly fed, rested, loved, and you learn their likes and dislikes and craft a daily schedule which maintains each of these things, you’re golden.
But, as I said above, the impulses that affect children are the same as they are in adults.
I think it’s natural to believe that we’re entirely different from children. Have you seen how five-year-olds behave? They’re alien (I mean that in the best way).
However, we’re not quite as different as most people think.
And that brings us to “HALT”, a method for helping you control your impulses which, in turn, helps you keep yourself more chemically balanced (which affects your mood and virtually every part of you), happy, and strong of both body and mind.
All these primary impulses, not easily described in words, are the springs of man’s actions.
– Albert Einstein
What is the HALT method?
The HALT method is a way of managing your basic needs, especially when rational thought decides to take a break (as it so often does).
These impulses don’t just affect children. It turns out, they affect adults just the same (just without the tantrums– mostly) and by mastering these impulses you can create a balance of body and mind which has all kinds of benefits from reduced irritability and stress to greater willpower and focus.
HALT stands for:
Each of these has to do with cues that tell us our basic physical and psychological needs aren’t being met and that we need to do something about it.
Think of it as a system for maintaining balance. Not just physical balance regarding chemicals like hormones and the need for nutrition, calories for the body to burn for energy, and rest for the body, but psychological balance through managing the existence of stress and obtaining the right amount of human connection and attention.
We don’t tend to think of these things as important but rather basic parts of daily life. However, these are the elements that allow us to maintain optimum balance and, when that balance is thrown off, we become frustrated and unhappy.
How to use the HALT method to control your impulses
HALT is used often in addiction recovery groups as a way of maintaining willpower during moments of weakness as it’s often those times when we’re imbalanced which provide an opportunity for weakness to creep in and for us to slip.
However, we all have goals and efforts we’re making in daily life which this method can help with, if for no reason other than to be happier and less stressed.
It’s these elements of hunger, frustration, loneliness, and fatigue which can cause us to falter in the face of those little choices each day such as whether we get up to work out, stay focused at the office, succumb to that chocolate lava cake at the grocery store, or lash out at the one we love during a simple discussion.
Start paying more attention to these impulses together as a unit and notice how when even a single one is off balance, making decisions becomes harder and you tend to fall off what you’re doing more easily.
Or better yet, look at your life and your daily habits and ask: “am I living in a way that nourishes each of these basic elements?”
- Am I eating often enough– the right things– and at the right time (blood sugar can be a real pain for some)?
- Am I giving myself enough time to rest between tasks, days off from work, time to myself to recharge and clear my mind?
- Am I getting enough time to connect with other human beings and am I receiving enough love from others?
- And am I getting enough sleep each night? Do I know what is the optimal sleep for me? What is too much sleep and what is too little? And what sleep schedule makes me feel most rested and clear-minded?
Daily life is busy enough, so I suggest simply writing the acronym “HALT” down somewhere at home or in your office where you’ll see it regularly to serve as a nice, simple reminder to pay attention every once in a while to these basic but critical impulses.