How To Improve Mindfulness With The 'HALT' Method
As humans, we are all programmed with natural impulses and instincts. However, just because we have certain thoughts and impulses doesn’t mean that they are all healthy for us.
Fortunately, it is possible to identify emotions that may make us more vulnerable to making poor choices. Here are four warning signs—collectively known as the “HALT method”—that can help control our impulses and make better choices.
Hunger is a sign that our body is lacking or in need of something. The majority of time hunger is associated with food, diet, and nutrition, which are undeniably important aspects of our overall health.
For example, many people experience feeling “hangry” (a combination of hunger and anger) when blood sugar levels drop, making them more emotionally unpredictable. However, be aware that this feeling could also be an emotional hunger; a craving for connection, intimacy, validation, etc.
Anger can dramatically alter our feelings. When angry, our brain is flooded by chemicals meant to instigate our evolutionary “fight or flight” mode.
Thus, we may be prone to over-reacting and our responses will be out of proportion to the actual situation. It is better to provide alternative and healthy outlets for our anger, such as exercise or meditation.
Loneliness is a trigger for many negative emotions in life, and such emotions can certainly lead to unhealthy behaviours. Instead of reacting to loneliness with self-destructive actions such as drinking or binge eating, try to respond to loneliness by reaching out to your friends or family for that feeling of connection.
Alternatively, you can engage in self-care by fostering your own unique interests and hobbies.
See also: Why Being Alone Doesn't Mean Being Lonely
When tired, we are extremely vulnerable to poor choices. Maintaining healthy sleep cycles and routines are essential for both physical and mental health.
When experiencing lack of sleep (insomnia, jet lag, etc.), our brains are simply not functioning at full potential. This is not the best time for making consequential decisions as you cannot be thinking clearly when such a basic need as sleep is not being met.
So, the next time you are facing emotions and impulses in life, ask yourself: in this very moment, am I feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you could benefit from taking a deep breath and a pause in order to respond mindfully instead of reacting impulsively.
HALT helps identify cues that our most basic needs are not being met. This method should help increase your self-awareness and set you on the path towards a more fulfilling life.
Dr. Michael Eason is a psychologist and US licensed therapist practising at MindnLife in Central, Hong Kong.
See also: 3 Ways To Beat The Summer Blues