Have you ever have one of those mornings where everyone seems to be irritating you? Do you ever find yourself at the end of a day thinking, “How can so many people be so wrong?” Or maybe it’s a trip where you take stock of how many horrible drivers there seem to be. Or, did you just have one of those days where EVERYTHING seemed to go wrong? Perhaps it is that one person that has really wronged you, and you can’t seem to stop thinking about them.

We have all been there. Even when you realize that you have a part in these situations, it’s really hard to change the negative thinking once it gets started.  One negative thought leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another.

I have a simple tool I use called HALT.  When I find myself mired in negative thinking, I pause for a moment. In other words I HALT and I ask myself: “Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired?” I often find that my answer is yes to one or more of the four questions.

The human brain is an amazing thing. But it’s still subject to human shortcomings.

If I am Hungry, my brain begins to drift to food. The primary responsibility of my brain is to keep me alive.  This instinctive function is sometimes referred to as my reptilian brain.

If I am Angry, the limbic part of my brain is in control. The limbic system takes energy away from the part of my brain that makes better and more informed decisions.

If I am Lonely, my social instincts take over. Neuroscience has shown that we are social creatures. Loneliness can manifest in thoughts of unfairness, feelings of being unwanted, uncertainty, and more.

If I am Tired I am no different than an exhausted child. A healthy brain requires energy.  So does healthy thinking. Being overly tired can affect my entire nervous system.

The good news about HALT is that I can do something about each of these things. If I wait until I get something to eat, calm down, talk to someone, or just get some sleep, I almost always make better decisions. Just the act of pausing can allow my reactions to be more appropriate. I also like the fact that there’s a reason I’m not at my best and I have the ability to change.