Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “Don’t go shopping for food when you’re hungry.” If not, the wisdom behind the saying is that if you go food shopping when you’re hungry you may put more food in your cart than you really need, you may buy food that looks delicious but is bad for you, or you may throw so many things in the cart that you get to the register and find you can’t afford it all. This tool expands on this idea.

As an acronym, H.A.L.T. stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. The word halt means to stop. The idea is that when you’re experiencing any of those four things, STOP. Otherwise you’ll find your ability to make rational choices is affected. The more strongly you’re experiencing those four things the more it affects your decision-making.

I know this from personal experience. I know when I need to eat, and if I’m not able to I start to get cranky. The more time passes the crankier I get, and if I continue to go without food at some point I turn into a complete asshole. At that point I don’t want to hear anything, I don’t want to know anything. I don’t care about you, I don’t even care about myself. I’ll give you permission to do whatever the hell you want, just get me to a place where I can eat. My ability to be rational is diminished. If I’m faced with an important decision the best thing I can do is to put it off until after I’ve dealt with my hunger.

Some people can go all day without eating, but hunger’s only one of the four items listed. If being very angry, lonely, or tired affects you, first take care of that need. When you’ve done this you’ll find your mind clears and you’ll feel healthy and rational again. Then go back to your decision and make your choice.

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