How To: Break Negative Cycles by using the HALT method 


Ice Cube said it best, “You betta check yo’self before you wreck yo’self”.   He may, or may not, know… but this is also known as the HALT method.

The HALT method applies to anyone and everything, it’s easy to remember, and it really works. If you’re a human being experiencing any negative cycle, or are in any type of relationship…you need the HALT method. 

Use it with your child, parent, spouse, co-workers, family, friends, and use it when you are feeling triggered by anything that traps you in a negative cycle.   It’s one of the best life hack/insider tips I’ve got. It’s a tool I suggest to practically all of my clients for their self-care tool box & faithfully use myself. If you do nothing else to stop negative behavior cycle …do the HALT method. It will save you unnecessary heartache, pain, & regret. 

What is the HALT method?

It is the marriage of 2 integral parts of wellness: mindfulness and self-care.

Mindfulness & self-care are not just some woo-woo psychobabble trends, they are crucial to attracting, creating, & maintaining healthy loving relationships. Mindfulness & self care treat the root underlying causes of negative behavior cycles.  

“If you don’t know, now you know…”- The Notorious B.I.G.

Here’s how:

Whenever you are feeling any type of stress, anxiety, sadness, or depression…HALT.  (Literally).

This is where you “check yo’self”- Ask yourself these questions:

Am I: Hungry?Angry?Lonely?or Tired?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’…it is what must be dealt with first before you make any more decisions.

It’s that simple.

Don’t let the simplicity fool you, it’s a dangerous place to be when these basic needs are not met.  You become more susceptible to destructive behaviors, that you will later regret. This is where you can seriously “wreck yo’self”. Especially if you are short-tempered, dealing with an addiction, messing with something addictive, have an addictive personality, or if something in particular is ‘running your show’ i.e. making the rest of your life unmanageable.

Let me break it down further.

Hunger- Have you eaten? Wait, even better… have you eaten nourishing food? If not, your blood sugar could be bottoming out and you could be HANGRY.   You have no business entering into any conversation, or making any decisions at all while in a hungry state.  Being hungry makes you bleary minded.  Just stop. You must eat, preferably something filling, and hopefully on some scale nutritious, the point is go EAT.  It shocks me how many people “forget to eat”…who are these crazy people?! Well, I married one. I present subject A-my husband. He’s a sweet easy-going dude for the most part, but catch that guy before he has eaten and then be trapped in a car going someplace…with traffic…no, not me, you couldn’t pay me to do it. It gets argumentative and unbearable real quick, over anything.  Poor thing was just very out of touch with his body’s hunger cues.  However, since he began practicing HALT he now can clearly state (while hungry), “I’m hungry”, which is code for HALT. So then we know it’s time to stop talking, pull over, & get that guy a hamburger STAT! Then all is sweet & easy-going again. Yay us! Disaster diverted. We saved ourselves hours worth of arguments about things we’ll never remember, and God only knows how much wasted time on the silent treatment (really hate the silent treatment). We now can do all of this with just detecting hunger…and eating. Go eat!

Anger– It’s not just for rageaholics. Are you being extra snippy, short-tempered, annoyed, sarcastic, or the dreaded …passive aggressive?  These are all forms of anger.  If you are feeling any of these, you need to take time to figure out what is causing your anger. What is really bothering you?  Once you figure that out, then you can figure out what you need to do about it. But first…HALT. Acknowledge the anger, then devise your plan.  Maybe what’s making you angry is ‘running late’, and there you are sitting in mind numbing traffic stewing, ready to go off on the next innocent bystander in your path. Your plan then is to move into acceptance.  Acceptance is the key to serenity, (a little AA phrase that’s full of wisdom). Serenity is what we are all after…after all. So move it!

“You keep carrying that anger, it’ll eat you up inside”-Heart of the Matter, Don Henley

Lonely- Ouch, this one hurts. (Mostly because I am often feeling this way myself). Do you need to connect with like-minded people? Do you feel isolated? Do you feel as if nobody truly understands you? Overwhelmed? HALT.  Then ask yourself “have I reached out to anyone lately?”  It may be time to tap into your support system.  Reach out to others that want to see you happy and healthy. Pick up the phone, call a friend, or schedule that much-needed therapy appointment.  Try a little DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) technique called ‘opposite action’- go outside, go to a coffee shop, or a park. Do the opposite of what you want to do, most likely it will do you a world of good, and help you to bust out of the funk of isolation.

Tired- This one seems super obvious…but it can easily go undetected and then take you down from behind.  You know the feeling, your running around doing errands, working, take care of everybody else, and/or doing things that generally don’t bring you any joy for most of your day.  This can steal the life out of you, and leave you lethargic.  Low energy is commonplace, and there many factors that contribute to it, lifestyle, lack of REM sleep, or improper diet to name a few.  HALT.  What do you need to do about this? Maybe you need to make an appointment to see your doctor to find out if there is any physiological/medical reason why, grab a coffee and keep it moving, cancel/rearrange something in your schedule so that you can rest, go to bed earlier, call in favors to your support system to help take something off of your plate if possible.  Schedule a time to re-charge.  Do it before you crash and burn, because being tired can really screw with your brain’s ability to function, and mess with your capacity to cope…with anything. Ask any new parent…or better yet deal with an overtired toddler (if you don’t have any kids then scratch your own eyes out b/c that’s basically what it feels like).  There’s a reason why sleep deprivation was used in Chinese torture, because it’s hell! Just find your way to rest, you’ll feel so much better if you do.

When you use HALT it creates         

S    p    a    c    e

(ahhh, breathe that in….)

and drives a powerful wedge between you and the reaction you don’t want to do.  It helps snap your brain out of automatic pilot which may be coming in for a crash landing.

It creates a  s  p  a  c  e   between reacting so that you can take your power back from the situation & actually consciously CHOOSE your response.

A wise facilitator of an MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) group I took once said,  Response is part of the word Responsibility.  It is your responsibility to choose your responses wisely.  So again, your  power comes from consciously responding vs. reaching a breaking point and reacting.

In addition, if you are experiencing frequent negative cycles that share a common factor such as a specific behavior, drugs, or alcohol, you may have a serious addiction explore or there are 12 step meetings for many types of addictions. So check yourself!

I really don’t know where I picked up the HALT method, maybe it was somewhere in the pile of self-help books I’ve read, at a 12 step meeting, or at a work training but it’s a tried & true gem.

Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem”- Lauryn Hill 

In conclusion, It’s a minefield out there ya’ll.  There are many things which trigger a negative cycle: stress, sadness, anxiety, & depression. So please…do yourself a favor & equipt yourself with HALT.  You can even do HALT(ED) add (Emotional, and Drugged/Drunk) on the end, for good measure. 

It will help you function as a better person, better all of your relationships by breaking negative cycles. Try it. Tell your momma & tell your friends, because sharing is caring. 

I’d love to hear from you regarding your experience with HALT, feel free to comment and share.