Ways to Improve Impulse Control

Written by johana patler
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Ways to Improve Impulse Control
Gaining control of your impulses may require professional help. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Getting angry on occasion or having an urge to eat a tub of ice cream now and then is not typically problematic; however, when an impulse becomes constant or uncontrollable, it can cause a great deal of suffering and disturbance. Life can feel like it is spinning out of control and the impulses are taking over. Regaining control, balance and peace of mind takes attention, work and sometimes professional assistance.


Stephen J. Hucker, forensic psychiatrist and professor at the University of Toronto, defines an impulsive behaviour or act as "not premeditated or not considered in advance and one over which the individual has little or no control." Sexual compulsion, compulsive eating, pathological gambling and compulsive stealing are some of the issues that psychiatrists treat through regular therapy sessions. Some disorders can be dangerous, debilitating and varying in their degrees, so consult your health care provider right away if you or someone you know has excessive impulses that are of concern.


People practice multiple methods of meditation all over the world. The fundamental goal of all meditation, however, is that through systematic concentration techniques, the mind becomes calm and steady, and the meditator experiences tranquillity and a sense of balance, peace and self-connection. According to William Stixrud, a clinical neuropsychologist and assistant clinical professor at George Washington School of Medicine: "By practicing regular meditation, the nervous system becomes settled and quiet. And when the stress response starts operating normally, you're simply less impulsive."

Identify Triggers

Tune in to what sets off your impulsive behaviour. First, watch the situations as an observer without trying to stop or judge yourself for being impulsive. Take note mentally or in a notebook to keep track of situations where the impulsive behaviour arises. After several instances, look back at the situations in which the behaviour occurred. Do you feel like overeating any time you are tired, stressed or unable to speak your mind? Do you get angry when you feel ignored or lonely? Look for similarities in the situations and try to identify what is triggering the impulsive behaviour. When you identify the problem, you can begin to take action by stopping what you are doing when you notice a trigger coming, thinking about what is really going on, listening to yourself and what you really want or feel, and planning how to take a different action other than the impulsive one.

Yoga Practice

Beverly Price, a registered dietitian and registered yoga teacher based in Michigan, lists multiple ways yoga can help in the treatment of eating disorders. In a regular yoga practice, she notes, participants often find themselves in postures that are difficult, uncomfortable or awkward. "Learning to stay within the poses and work through these postures can help an individual, who feels an urge to binge or purge, delay acting on this urge," she says. Practicing yoga can also increase and maintain discipline and help you accept uncomfortable emotions and situations during class, thus aiding your efforts to control impulsive behaviour that commonly arises out of uncomfortable emotions or situations in daily life.

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