Most of our days are filled with random thoughts. We have thousands of thoughts per day. Many of those thoughts we are facing are negative impulsive thoughts. Deepak Chopra was quoted in an article about meditation, saying that we may have between 60,000 – 80,000 different thoughts per day. How many of those are negative thoughts?
Sometimes the negative thoughts are impulsive, intrusive, and overpowering. Sometimes we act on those thoughts that do not seem like “us” or part of our character and we deeply regret it later. It could be something as simple as blurting out the first critical word to your best friend, really losing control with your children by screaming or yelling, or even something more. It could also be taking a financial risk that you know is not the best decision, or something like feeling the need to drink more than you should, or use drugs because of those negative impulsive thoughts.
We are unable to control our thoughts, but we do have the power and ability to control how we react to and deal with our thoughts, especially negative impulsive thoughts. Here are 9 ways mature people deal with negative impulsives.
1. They use the H.A.L.T. method.
The thought could be, “Go shopping and buy that outfit”, even when they don’t have the extra money. It could be, “Go eat that big fat greasy cheeseburger”, even when they are trying to eat healthy. For someone that struggles with addiction issues, the thought could be, “Just go stop off at that convenience store right now and buy a beer.” The thought for a really stressed out parent at the end of their patience could be, “These kids are so unruly right now, just spank the living you know what out of them.” People that have lived with negative thought patterns their entire lives, but choose a healthy reaction to those thoughts, ask themselves four questions that are included in the acronym for H.A.L.T. They ask themselves: Am I Hungry? Am I Angry? Am I Lonely? Am I Tired? If the answer to any of the questions are yes and they are having negative impulsive thoughts, they take a step back and don’t react right away. Once they are aware that they are lacking in food (or angry for any reason, or feel lonely, or feel tired), they are able to take a breath. They take care of their basic needs first instead of immediately reacting to those negative impulsive thoughts.
2. They keep a journal.
It is no secret that journaling one’s thoughts and feelings can be a positive act. However, it is a struggle for many to get into the habit. Once they write out some of their negative impulsive thoughts (or just write down the feelings surrounding them), they get it out of their head and on paper, and it releases the stress of the negative action that the thought might bring. Once their feelings surrounding these thoughts are written down, it is no longer stuck in their head or affecting their mood. Journaling one’s thoughts can also be a way to kept track of how frequently these negative impulsive thoughts might arise. If the negative impulsive thought might involve telling someone how you really feel in a negative or hurtful way, instead of writing in a journal, they might write a letter to that person or write out a text that they don’t ever send. This action allows for their feelings of anger to be released but not actually communicated or sent to the person those thoughts and actions would involve. This way, they avoid lashing out in anger or frustration but still allow the feelings to be released so that they don’t later turn into resentments.
3. They talk to someone.
It is known that having a mentor, a confidant, or someone you trust and you are able to talk about your thoughts, feelings or issues with, can really help your situation. Mature people talk to someone about their thoughts and feelings to help sort things out. It could be a close friend they trust, a therapist. a life coach, or even a mentor that they admire and consider someone that would offer them sound advice with any given situation. The person they share their information with is a safe person that is there to encourage and guide, not one to ridicule or judge their situation.
4. They replace the negative impulsive thought with a positive action.
Sometimes they have negative impulsive thoughts about issues they might struggle with. If it’s about lack of patience or quick anger towards their children, instead of reflexively acting out, they take a step back. They go in a different part of the house or set a boundary with their children that they need some time for themselves. If they want to indulge in something sweet, or their favorite burger, or pizza joint, they go for a walk or exercise instead. It they want a new outfit or a pair of expensive shoes they can’t really afford, they organize or go through their closet and find a few items they haven’t worn in months. As a safe compromise, they could also browse clearance racks and buy one item instead of a larger purchase they can’t afford. If they have addiction issues, many times exercise or meditation can immediately change their mental state for the better and are a great tools to utilise during periods of negative impulsive thoughts about drinking or using drugs.
5. They process their feelings.
Feelings are just feelings. They are neither right nor wrong. Mature people process their feelings first and then choose which reaction they want to make based on those thoughts and feelings. They are first presented with a thought, then a feeling, and then they can decide how to respond. It is their responsibility to own their feelings and make the best choice they can, based on the situation. Mature people do not blame others for their actions or reactions, they take responsibility for their own actions. They realise they have the power of choosing how to react in any given situation, no matter how negative or chaotic the current situation may be.
6. They think through the outcome.
If we reacted on every single thought or feeling that came into our minds, there might be a lot more people in prison or possibly even dead. For the most part, we have pretty good self control as we don’t always react to every single thought, desire, or feeling that we experience. Mature people that have negative impulsive thoughts think through the outcome. They think what would happen if they were to react to each to every negative impulsive thought they have. For example, what if they drank too much and got behind the wheel of a vehicle. The worst outcome could be their death or someone else’s. Instead, they utilise a designated driver or a taxi. If someone in recovery from addiction issues thinks through their thoughts on going back to drinking or using drugs, they realize the relapse isn’t worth it and remain sober for that day. If someone that enjoys shopping a little too much thinks through the fact that they will go further into debt or worse, they decide not to go shopping at all. If someone struggles with food addiction and realises the long term affect could be a life threatening illnesses later down the road, they eat something healthier or decide to exercise. After thinking through the outcome of each negative impulsive thought, they have the power to have stronger self control.
7. They filter out the lies.
Many of the thoughts that come to us are not true, especially the negative impulsive ones. Some thoughts tell us lies, like if we do take that drink or buy that new outfit things will be great, when in reality there is a consequence for every negative action. Mature people take the thought in and recognize it is not true, rejecting it altogether. They will not act on impulse because they know if they follow through on the action based on the thought the outcome will be completely different than what their thoughts are telling them. When they are hurt by someone and their negative impulsive thoughts tell them to do the same to that person to get even or revenge, they know the true outcome will eventually be guilt or shame for hurting someone else even though they themselves have been hurt.
8. They practice forgiveness.
If we continue to hold resentments or grudges towards others that have hurt us then anger will follow us everywhere we go. With the feeling of anger being a volatile one that can catapult a myriad of negative reactions in the span of a few seconds. It is dangerous to continuously have underlying anger in our lives because we have not forgiven others. Mature people practice forgiveness in their lives so that anger is not an underlying presence. Many times, feeling anger can be justified if others have hurt us, but to hold onto that anger is detrimental to our happiness. If we don’t forgive others, we actually allow them to still have control in our lives and our past because we have not let go of the event or person that hurt us. Forgiveness is a process, but mature people find other people that can help them work on the process of forgiveness and be able to live their lives with a clearer conscious and a heart that is no longer bitter. There is freedom in forgiveness. Mature people continually practice forgiveness. This makes them less likely to give in to negative impulsive thoughts because they have no lingering anger, hate, or resentments towards others just waiting to rise up within them.
9. The practice prayer or meditation.
Many times, believing in something greater than yourself can be a very positive thing. Mature people utilize prayer or meditation to lessen the stress of everyday life by giving those issues up to something greater than themselves. They could be a part of many of the numerous practicing religions around the world today, or just giving up their issues to a higher power (which many recovery groups are based on). They choose to believe in something else to help them get through their everyday lives. When negative impulsive thoughts come, they pray for the thoughts to stop, or to be led to the best reaction based on whichever negative impulsive thought they are faced with.
Featured photo credit: Elade Manu via flickr.com