How to Control Your Impulses to Make Better Choices

Why Learning This Will Improve Your Mental and Emotional States While Reducing Stress in Your Life

Neel Raman
6 min readOct 18, 2022

How often do you struggle to control your impulses or temptations without thinking of the negative consequences?

Our lives are full of distractions. It’s important to learn how to control your impulses so you can make better choices and live a healthier life.

When you can control your impulses, you’re less likely to react to things or make poor decisions which you may regret.

1-Minute Summary Video

What Does it Mean to Control Your Impulses?

The ability to control your impulses will support better mental and emotional health.

To control your impulses means to:

  • Recognize your emotional state when you have an impulse.
  • Think before you act when triggered.
  • Learn to recognize when you have an impulse to do something.
  • Avoid sting on your impulse immediately by appreciating the importance of delayed gratification.
  • Act on your impulse if it’s healthy for you or lead you to an outcome you want.
  • Take responsibility for your choices and actions.
  • Develop the ability to say no to yourself.
  • Show high emotional intelligence.

When people are in a heightened emotional state, they’re more likely to have poor impulse control and display impulsive behaviours.

Lack of impulse control can lead to poor choices and affect your quality of life.

Why Should You Learn to Better Control Your Impulses?

The reasons you need to learn to control your impulses include:

  • You will be more self-aware.
  • You will improve your decision-making skills.
  • You will manage your stress and emotions better.
  • You will avoid being reactive or taking impulsive action.
  • You will trust yourself more and have better behavioural control.
  • You will manage distractions better, which means you will improve your concentration or focus.
  • You will have greater self-confidence.
  • You will improve your relationships.
  • You will feel happier and enjoy your life more.
  • You will have a better sense of when to act and when not to.

When you know when you’re being impulsive and when you’re not, you’re less likely to have emotional impulses and you will demonstrate healthy behaviours.

control your impulses

Why is It Hard to Control Your Impulses?

Reasons why’s it’s difficult to control your impulses include:

  • You’re unaware of your motives or what’s driving your desire to do something.
  • You have not thought about how your actions will affect others.
  • You have too many things going on, which may affect your ability to think clearly.
  • You don’t know how to control your impulses or may have an impulse control disorder.
  • You’re not in a healthy mental and emotional state.
  • You’re in the habit of being impulsive and reactive.
  • You lack self-confidence and have a low level of self-trust.
  • You have developed unhealthy or bad habits.
  • You’re not happy about what you’re doing with your life.
  • You don’t understand the benefit of delayed gratification.

Factors That Control Your Impulses

The factors that control your impulses include:

  • Your personality traits and genetic factors.
  • The environment you’re in.
  • Your beliefs and programming.
  • Other people’s expectations.
  • Your mental, emotional, and physical states.
  • The things you value.
  • Your priorities.
  • The experiences you’ve had in life.

5 Ways You Can Control Your Impulses to Make Better Choices

Here are five things you can do to control your impulses, so you can better control your emotions and make smart decisions.

1. Recognize when you’re triggered or when an impulse is coming on

This is an important first step because it will give you time to assess what you need to do. It’s an opportunity to understand why you’re triggered and what your emotional state is.

If you feel like you’re having an impulse, ask yourself “What am I thinking?” or “What do I need right now?”

2. Think about the consequences of your actions

Give yourself extra time to decide what you want to do. Ask yourself, “If I don’t act on this, will I miss out on anything?”

Consider how you will feel if you act on your impulse and whether you will regret the choice you make.

Also, consider how your actions will affect other people in your life.

3. Act on your impulse if it’s healthy for you or moves you closer to an outcome you want

Not all your impulses are bad. Learn how to distinguish between an intuitive nudge or an emotional impulse. If acting on your impulse will benefit you, then follow through on it.

If you’re having an emotional trigger, understand why and what’s going on for you.

4. Talk to someone if you know you’re struggling with something

Sometimes, dealing with your impulses could be due to factors that are not obvious to you.

If you know you have impulse control issues, get professional help by speaking to a counsellor or therapist to better understand the underlying causes of your impulses. They can provide tools and techniques that will allow you to practice self-control.

Other times, speaking to someone you trust can help put things into perspective and help you make a wise decision.

5. Direct your focus to what’s most important

Ask yourself, “What do I want or need right now?” This will help you realize if you’re distracted or if you need to take better care of yourself.

The greater your level of self-awareness, the better choices you will make. This will also help you take responsibility for your actions.

Final Thoughts

Your ability to control your impulses and stay focused on what matters most to you is essential if you want to achieve more success.

If you don’t know how to control your impulses, you’re more likely to make poor decisions. That will affect your happiness, sense of self-worth, and overall outlook on life.

Action Step: Next time you notice an impulse coming on, pause before you act and give yourself time to understand what’s going on for you. If you’re having an emotional reaction to something, identify what you need and whether acting on the impulse will give it to you.

Question: What other steps can you take to control your impulses to make better choices?

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Neel Raman

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