Impatience is a normal reaction when things aren't going your way. Whether you're stuck in a traffic jam, in a grocery line with a clerk moving slower than molasses, or involved with a work project that's taking twice as long as it should--any of these things would test the patience of a saint.
Patience is an essential quality for a happy life. Yet, many of us find ourselves in short supply of it. The good news is anyone can learn to be more patient. It’s a skill that takes practice and employing a few techniques. Patience is well worth developing because it will help you become calmer, happier and more understanding regardless of what frustrating circumstances you’re in.
Here are some ways on how to be more patient.
Use Your Breath as an Effective Way to Quickly Calm Down
Whenever you feel yourself getting frustrated, use your breath—it’s simple, easy and effective. Slowly take six deep breaths. Focus on the breath filling your lungs, hold it for a second and then slowly exhale.
You can also count to ten in your head. When you combine this with the breathing technique above, it’s incredibly effective. You should be able to feel your body start to calm down right away.
If possible, take a time out and walk away from the situation for a few minutes. Leave the room or go for a short walk for 5-10 minutes. It will give you an opportunity to relax and think about how to deal more effectively with the situation.
Shift Your Perspective and Find Gratitude
The situations that you have no control over are the ones that cause impatience. If you can’t change the circumstances you’re in, the best thing to do is to shift your perspective about it. Accept it. It may be uncomfortable but it’s tolerable.
You may not be able to change what’s happening but you can change your point of view. Instead of focusing on feeling powerless, concentrate on changing your mindset. Think to yourself, “Since I can’t make traffic move any faster, I may as well use this time to appreciate the quietness, clouds drifting through the sky, respite from my work.”
Patience comes down to perspective and how you view the uncontrollable circumstances that you’re caught up in. That’s life. It’s going to happen. You can come to peace with it or go nuts. It’s a choice. One leads to peace and happiness.
“Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you, but not the one ahead.” —Anonymous
The next time you’re stuck in a long line at the store that’s moving at a snail’s pace, find gratitude. Think about how fortunate you are to have these items readily available to you and the money to purchase them. It’s a First World problem. Seriously! So many, many people in the world would trade places with you in a heartbeat.
Find a Way to Make the Situation Enjoyable
When you’re caught in a frustrating situation, shift your focus away from your growing irritation to something else. Okay, so it’s making lemonade out of lemons but it works, people. Find something pleasant or interesting to do while you’re waiting.
If you’re in bumper-to-bumper traffic, check out the other cars and drivers around you. Make a game out of the letters and numbers on the license plates. Spot items that start with one of the letters and use one of the numbers for how many you need to find. Listen to a different radio station.
Keep your sense of humor! Get creative. Be playful. Rather than react, distract and amuse yourself. Keep a bottle of bubbles in your car and blow bubbles out the window when you’re just sitting there.
If you accidentally picked the slowest-moving line at the grocery store, inconspicuously work on your core muscles. Note what other people have in their shopping carts and imagine what meal they’re going to fix. Babies are fascinated by grocery ceilings for good reason. Check out all the stuff hanging from the rafters. Here’s a good one: smile, especially at the cashier dealing with the endless line!
Find Healthy Ways to Periodically Release Tension
Of course, it’s always better to avoid triggers of impatience in the first place. It’s helpful to recognize what your triggers are and what’s behind them. When do you ‘lose it’? Likely, there’s a predictable pattern for you. If it’s getting caught in traffic when you’re running late, try to leave earlier or with a longer time buffer. If you lose patience with certain people, try to limit the time you’re around them. If your work projects tend to barely squeak in under the wire, give yourself more realistic time constraints to get the work done. If your kids are starting to get on your nerves, shift their location or yours for a few minutes if possible.
You’ll be less prone to lose your patience if you regularly release pent-up tension. Find healthy ways to release stress. Exercise every day. Even just a little bit of movement—taking the stairs or a quick walk at lunchtime—can make a difference in releasing frustration. Get a massage every month.
“A moment of patience in a moment of anger can save a thousand moments of regret.” —Anonymous
Developing patience is a process. It’s not a skill you’re born with. It’s acquired through practice. It’s definitely worth developing. You’ll be happier if you practice patience.