This acronym, HALT appeared in a Mindful article, 5 Ways to Kick Bad Habits by psychologist Christopher Willard. As we move through the territory of creating new habits, often old shadow parts of ourselves will appear and we might attempt to sabotage ourselves. When you feel your will power slipping, you can employ the wisdom of HALT by asking yourself if you are feeling:
Hungry: Impulse control involves a complex dance between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, with a little help from other parts of the brain also involved in foresight and decision-making. Any shortage of calories will short-circuit this hub of activity, making it difficult to activate your willpower.
Angry/Anxious: When we feel angry or anxious our bodies can slip into fight-or-flight mode, where we start operating from the most primitive parts of the brain and nervous system. In this mode, some of the rational parts of our brain shut down, decreasing our ability to think and reason through things, or even consider the long-term consequences of our actions. When your emotions are running high, take a few slow, mindful breaths to quiet the nerves and activate your more rational brain.
Lonely: When we tell other people about a commitment to change a habit, we’re far more likely to follow through. Introvert or extrovert, we all need to strike a balance between solitude and socializing. Consider what is the best balance for you, and share your goals only as widely as you feel comfortable.
Tired: When we’re tired, our self-control and willpower slip away, an effect known as “ego-depletion.” (A poor night’s sleep can even knock you down a few IQ points.) Establishing healthy sleep habits is not only integral to your self-care, it’s also essential for your deeper goals.