In today’s world of “click here,” desires are met almost immediately. We all enjoy having instant answers from the internet, skipping commercials, and receiving packages the next day, but we should know that in this climate of speedy satisfaction, harder than ever to strengthen that part of the brain that controls one’s impulses. The reason it is important to have well-developed impulse control is because there are links between this ability and success, as well as the reverse: studies show a connection between poor impulse control and addiction. Without giving up the convenience of a more efficient lifestyle, there are ways to develop one’s impulse control. Read on…
WHAT EXACTLY IS IMPULSE CONTROL AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
Impulsivity is the inability to rule over one’s own behavior; to resist temptation and to sacrifice present gratification in pursuit of future attainment. It is not typically defined by one act, but rather by a pattern of behavior.
People who have good impulse control have less behavioral problems and are more likely to achieve success in school, work, and relationships. Here’s why:
PEOPLE WHO CAN CONTROL THEIR IMPULSES CAN:
· Think before they act and speak
· Resist peer pressure
· Wait their turn
· Utilize critical thinking skills to solve problems
· Tolerate frustration
· Handle stress
· Manage anger
In a recent New York Times article titled What Drives Success? Authors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld state that successful groups of people in America (Jews among them) share three character traits, one of which is impulse control.
According to neuroscience researchers Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang, who co-authored “Welcome to Your Child’s Brain,” self-control is twice as important as intelligence when it comes to academic achievement!
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN IMPULSIVITY AND DRUG ABUSE:
Research supports the idea that those who have difficulty controlling their impulses may be more prone to drink excessively or abuse drugs. A study using rats at the University of Cambridge found that the rats with higher levels of impulsivity developed compulsive drug use.
Roy V. Tellis, Program Director of The SAFE Foundation says, “Addicts don’t think…They act. What appears as an addict’s irrational and dangerous behaviors (driving again under the influence with a DWI, using drugs before taking a drug test, using outlandish excuses to explain repeated lateness and absences) are clearly traced to a lack of impulse control.”
Findings presented in the journal Nature Neuroscience claim there is strong evidence that some teenagers are at higher risk for drug and alcohol experimentation—simply because their brains work differently, making them more impulsive. Dr. Dougherty, whose particular focus is impulsive behaviors, states that impulsivity is the route leading to drug abuse and suicide. Continue reading below…Also In addition to this data, there are documented links between damage to the right orbitofrontal cortex of the brain and disorders of impulsivity and compulsivity, such as drug addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder, and attention-deficit disorder.
MANAGING IMPULSIVE BEHAVIOR:
The good news is that it is never too late to change habits; you can improve your self-control. Experiments done with rats found that training the brain to resist impulses actually increases the strength of electrical signals in the brain.
Here are some ways to strengthen your impulse control:
1. Practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness means that you slooooowwww down, take time to evaluate your external surroundings and circumstances, and be mindful of controlling your responses to them.
2. Stay with people who are likely to weigh the consequences of their actions. Spending time with those who are not impulsive can help you to keep your own behavior in check.
3. Work to separate feelings from actions. Identify your feelings, and then give yourself some time to study the choices you have to express what you feel.
4. Identify the areas of your life where impulse control gets you into trouble, and create “speed bumps” or obstacles between yourself and that situation.
5. If you know that you tend to be impulsive, designate someone in your life who you can go to for corrective feedback; someone who will tell you if you are acting impulsively or if you need to give the matter more thought.
6. Before you act on impulse, take a moment to predict how your actions will affect your future. Ask yourself, “Will my actions contribute to my life plan or detract from it?
7. Being unable to tolerate frustration can be a big factor in having poor impulse control, so know that when you are frustrated, it’s time to give yourself a “time out” to recompose and review your behavior choices.
8. Seek addiction treatment: If you struggle with drug abuse or alcoholism, the first stop is to seek professional treatment, for it’s simply the most effective path toward living a healthier life. With therapy, you’ll learn how to manage undesirable emotions, practice mindfulness, and make appropriate, thoughtful decisions.