Understanding HALT – How to Engage in Positive Behaviors

When we are aware of our mental, emotional, and physical states this can lead to us engaging in positive behaviors rather than impulsive behaviors. If we HALT and assess our needs then we are better able to address behaviors before they lead to relapse, whether that is returning to substance use or other behaviors we are looking to change. HALT is a helpful tool that we can use to remind us to look at some of our basic needs.

HALT is an acronym for:  

  • Hungry:

    • Hunger can be a physical or an emotional need. Ensuring that one is taking care of their physical health by meeting all of their nutritional needs is important. A healthy eating pattern and routine can provide us the energy that we need to operate on a day-to-day basis. We can also hunger for connection, affection, or understanding. Therefore, a positive support network of people that one can reach out to during times that we hunger for friendship is just as important as a balanced diet.
    • This is why sometimes we need to HALT and assess what type of hunger we are experiencing in the moment: a hunger for food or a hunger for connection.  
  • Angry:

    • When we become angry, it can be so helpful to practice using this HALT tool by stopping and assessing how we can address our anger in a healthy way. Where is my anger coming from? Is this something I can resolve by assertively communicating my feelings with the person I am having an issue with? Or is this a moment where I need to tap into my coping skills, such as exercising/being active, engaging in creative or meditative exercises to dispel the anger, punching a pillow, or processing your anger out loud in therapy.  
  • Lonely:

    • We can feel lonely in many different situations, whether we are surrounded by people or we are by ourselves. When we begin to feel lonely, try using HALT to investigate this feeling. In the world of mental health and addiction sometimes we isolate ourselves for a variety of reasons.
    • When you are feeling lonely try reaching out to your support network or a close friend. It can even be helpful to get outside, take a walk, and be amongst people.  
  • Tired:

    • Throughout the day many of us are engaged in various activities that can distract us from listening to our bodies. We go from home to work to activities to home and then possibly more activities without realizing how tired our bodies are. When we have low energy and perhaps an increase of stress due to a full schedule it can become difficult to cope with mental health symptoms or addiction triggers.
    • Therefore, if we HALT and assess our energy levels, we can act rather than react by engaging in a nap, taking a break during the day, or by taking a deep breath.  


About Sarah Chun

Sarah is a Resident in Counseling providing counseling services through our Alexandria location. She completed her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a Certificate in Addictions Studies from Immaculata University. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Music: Vocal Performance from American University in Washington, D.C. Sarah is also a National Certified Counselor and a member of the American Counseling Association. To learn more about Sarah, click HERE

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