There are three primary symptoms of ADHD, and their presentation is different in each individual. They are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. As you probably know, impulsivity is the tendency to act without properly assessing the consequences beforehand. For those with ADHD, increased impulsivity appears to be the effect of an under-stimulated prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain that controls the so-called “executive functions.” Hyperactivity often functions as a means to sufficiently arouse the prefrontal area of the brain, so that the person with ADHD can give sustained attention where it is needed.
But there is another way to curb the impulsivity. Those with ADHD can work to slow down their thinking, applying mindfulness to a situation. Here, I am speaking of mindfulness as the ability to become increasingly aware of what is going on inside of and around us. For instance, mindfulness can be as simple as taking an inventory of the objects in our direct vicinity, or as complicated as learning how to identify specific physiological sensations in the body. However it manifests, mindfulness tends to be characterized by slowness and an increased awareness of what is occurring in the moment.
The application for impulsivity is pretty straightforward: Slowing down and deliberately thinking of what is occurring in the moment protects us from making impulsive decisions. Instead of allowing our brains to run around in fifteen different directions at once—which prohibits reflection, we can center ourselves on a specific thought, or direct our attention toward a specific object or task. Over time, the idea is that our brains will become more proficient at doing this sort of thing, which means it will require less effort. Instead of our attention being automatically diffused, such that we cannot think through something, our minds will be settled and more attentive.
Impulsivity can be a major issue for people with ADHD. However, there are steps we can take to try and introduce protective factors against the frequency with which we act impulsively. This will reduce regret, and also lower our vulnerability to anxiety and depression. As we begin to observe more positive outcomes, we can grow more confident of our ability to make competent decisions.