Inhibitory Control – Do you control your impulses?

February 3, 2023

Inhibitory control refers to regulating your emotions. Human emotions, it is said, are a computational moment, driven by your experiences, present, past and future. Emotions are also driven by your physical state. Someone with a fever and without would respond differently. Can you then regulate your emotions, exercising inhibitory control? If so, how?

Obviously, the first requirement is an understanding. Take me feeling hungry, for example. Several times a month, I find myself losing all control, especially after 7 pm. Hunger invades my senses. The only thing that can satiate me is food. I may feel terrible after, but by then the deed is done.

The ability to suppress impulses, thoughts, and actions that may interfere with achieving one’s goals is beneficial. This cognitive process is critical for successful goal-directed behaviour, decision-making, and self-regulation. It allows individuals to control their attention, emotions, and behaviour in various social, academic, and occupational settings.

Ten years ago, my limitations went far beyond just food. People, events, circumstances could all overwhelm me. I may have had the desire to be calm, but the ability eluded me.

The importance of inhibitory control lies in its ability to help individuals overcome distractions, resist temptations, and maintain focus on their goals. For instance, inhibitory control enables one to ignore irrelevant stimuli and stay focused on a task, even in a noisy environment. It also plays a crucial role in emotional regulation and impulse control. For example, inhibitory control helps individuals manage their emotions, such as anger and frustration, and control their impulsive behaviour, such as overspending or overeating.

If you are among the people who suffer, how can I help? There are several ways to improve inhibitory control. Exercise is one of those actions where you have to overcome your inertia to act. No one willingly wants to climb a mountain. But the ability to repeatedly climb a mountain, or exercise, has been shown to improve cognitive functioning and increase self control. Its muscle training.

Meditation is the training to focus on the present moment and helps increase attentional control and self-regulation. While there are many forms, Zazen, which I practice, does not ask you to try and achieve anything. Not even mindlessness. Again you are training your muscles.

Cognitive training is the repeated practice of a specific task. Take my daily writing. For me to, write everyday, I need to discover, research, understand and write about a topic. I am training my mind and body to overcome any inertia, else the article does not get published.

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