Impulsivity is the lack of thinking between the impulse and action. You react instead of act. It’s very common. To eliminate or limit this, you need to consciously step in between the stimulus and your action.
You don’t, because you have no mental tools for that. 99.9% of the population don’t have them. It’s easier and quicker to react instead of think.
Habits are the only thing that can make a difference for you. Your habits make you who you are, so adopt new habits that support being less impulsive.
Hence, I recommend three habits that will make you aware of what’s going on in your head. Self-awareness is only the first step, but it’s a necessary one. If you are not aware of your thinking processes, you just blurt out something without conscious processing. There is no chance to intervene between the stimuli and action.
Hands down, it’s the best solution. It has very similar benefits to two others habits I talk about below, but journaling provides even more advantages.
Unfortunately, you cannot do it in 1-minute chunks. You need to sit on your butt and spend those 5–10 minutes on writing (or more; I journal 10–15 minutes every morning). That way you learn to focus, which will be another benefit for your ADHD-ridden mind.
Then, writing itself has this ‘magical’ ability of clarifying your thoughts. They cannot run stray in your mind if they will be put on paper. Some level of focus and clarity is woven into the activity itself.
What to journal about?
About you. Your thoughts. Your past actions. Your future plans and dreams. Analyze yourself. You can write about your days and interactions, but always from the angle of: “What the heck has been going on in my mind?”
It may not be journaling about the past events at all. I more often write about my attitudes and states of mind than specific events.
In my journaling sessions, I ask myself only one headline question and try to answer it as comprehensively as I can in the 66% of the page I dedicate for that. Sometimes I continue the same question/answer the next day, if the scope is big enough.
(Sign up to my list and I’ll send you 100 questions from my journals… and more!)
The one trouble with journaling is that it’s not as easy as the other two habits. 5–15 minute commitment is not something a person with ADHD is ready for. I can offer one hack: start from gratitude journaling. Every morning, write on paper three new things that you are grateful for.
It still will give you some insight into your thoughts. It will make you focus on something specific (gratitude) and will provide the clarifying benefit of writing. Plus, it will rewire your brain to positive and everything in your life will get better. No exaggeration.
Reserve a couple minutes of your time, preferably in solitude (not obligatory, but very helpful).
Sit or lie and relax (not obligatory, but very helpful).
Close your eyes (not obligatory, but very helpful).
Breathe deeply for two minutes, focusing on the air coming in and out of your nostrils (you can also focus on any of your body parts or sense your body in general); when a thought crosses your mind, acknowledge it and get back to your point of focus.
Congratulations. You’ve just meditated for the first time in your life; repeat this process ten days in a row and you will develop a stable meditation habit.
That’s all. There are a zillion ways you can meditate deeper and longer, but at the beginning you need to keep things simple. Try to meditate rather more often than longer. One minute here and there will be much better than 10 minutes of meditation lumped together. When you start, the frequency of your habit solidifies it, not the scope of it.
The goal of meditation as I see it, is not to stop thinking; it’s the realization that you think all the time and you cannot help it. This activity makes you aware of what’s going on inside your skull.
The motorway from your mind to your tongue is wide and fast. It’s very difficult to control your speech. It’s much easier to simply shut completely up.
Silence is weird, I know. I practiced it myself. I tried to not utter a single word for the whole day. I never succeeded.
But man! It gave me so much control over my reactions! When you have to shut up, you must shut down the mind-tongue motorway with your conscious control. You quickly learn how to exercise this control.
You may want to start slowly, from 10 or 20 minutes at a time. When people will inquire why the heck you are so quiet, you can say you made a bet with yourself to be silent for some specific time. In fact, you can verily make a bet with yourself, so you will not lie to them.
Every second spent on exercising silence will benefit you with more control over your tongue, your thoughts and in the end, over the stimuli-response process.
There are plenty of other habits to become less impulsive, but the three above are the most easy, efficient and nailing the issue of self-control down.
There is really almost zero ‘cost of entry’ for each of them. Pick one of them and start today. Better yet, start right now!