Choose how you act

A lot of our behaviours happen automatically. Sometimes — without having had the time to think about what we really want to do — we've already done something.

Creating distance to our thoughts can help us gain more control over our actions. It reduces the risk of us accidentally saying or doing something we later regret.


Learn more about:

  • Creating distance to your thoughts
  • Becoming less impulsive
  • Choosing how you want to act
You can think of emotions as sources of information. Our emotions are connected to different behaviors.

Sadness makes us want to withdraw. Happiness makes us want to share our joy. Being afraid prepares us to either fight or flee.

Use this exercise when you notice that you're having a strong reaction and are about to act impulsively.

We'll be using the metaphor of a traffic light to help guide our behavior in challenging situations.
    1. RED LIGHT
    The first step is red light. Here we stop and become aware of what's going on right now.

    Check in with your body and mind. How does your breathing feel? Are you tense? Just notice what is happening on the inside.

    Imagine that someone is criticizing you. Maybe a friend or a family member. See if you can really tune in to the thoughts and feelings that come up.

    Stop and notice what's going on inside of you. How does your body feel? Your breathing?

    Write down your answer if you want to. Otherwise, it's enough to just think it through.
    2. YELLOW LIGHT
    The second step is yellow light. This is where we start to put into words what we're experiencing.

    • How do you feel?
    • What thoughts are surfacing?
    • What impulses do you have?
    Go back to the situation you imagined earlier, where someone was criticizing you or something you did.

    • How does it feel?
    • What thoughts come up?
    • What impulses do you have?
    Write down your answer if you want to.
    3. GREEN LIGHT
    It's time to get going — but not just anywhere. Think about how you want to act and what consequences your behavior will have — short and long term.

    Then, after your thoughts and emotions have had time to settle, act in the way you actually want to.

    Go back to the situation. Choose how you want to act when someone criticizes you.

    • What is the best thing to do?
    • How would you like to behave?
    • Is it different from the impulses you had before?
    • Maybe you could try a new behavior?
    Write down your answer if you want to.
    SUMMARY
    Good job, today you've practiced choosing your behaviors.

    • At red light we stop.
    • At yellow we get ready by checking what's going on inside and outside of us.
    • And at green we take off in a direction that is important to us.
    It can be useful to save this exercise and get back to it next time you find yourself in a similar situation.
    Choose how you act
    A 10-minute exercise developed by psychologists to help you gain more control over your actions. Available in the 29k app for free.
    Try it
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