by Jessica Zorn
veryone has hear it: patience is a virtue. However, in a modern world where technology makes everything available to us at the press of a finger, patience is harder than ever to practice. If someone can practice mindful patience, they can navigate daily life easier by responding to frustration or adversity with rational composure. Patience also helps reduce stress levels and contributes to empathy, compassion, and appreciation, by allowing a person time to better understand a situation before reacting. In that way, patience can also help lead us to make better decisions, stopping impulsive or reactive thinking so that cooler heads can prevail.
So how can someone go about exercising more patience in their daily life?
Notice patterns. Try to take notice of the things in your life that frustrate you; maybe it is tardiness, your job, traffic or your family. Awareness that your patience tends to wane due to specific stressors can help you be mindful of the need to calm down, take a deep breath and react accordingly. If you notice patterns in your life, take a deep breath to help boost your patience before interacting with that stimuli, or when possible, avoid the interaction altogether. For example, if traffic stresses you out, take a slightly longer, less chaotic route home. Preserve your patience for unexpected situations.
Give yourself permission to feel frustrated and uncomfortable. If someone struggles with patience, they likely struggle to cope with the feelings of frustration, discomfort or tension. However, these emotions are common and outright normal. Some days, especially overly stressful days, you will find it hard to exercise patience even in minor circumstances. Acknowledge these moments and forgive yourself. Allow yourself time to feel frustrated and uncomfortable until you have more control over your emotional state. Impatience is to be expected sometimes. Give yourself the opportunity to work through your emotions, allowing you to then arrive at a healthier headspace to work on problem-solving.
Identify the true source of impatience. Frustration and impatience arise when someone wants a problem solved NOW. Evolutionarily, humans developed these feelings to make sure problems are solved quickly. However, if the true source of tense feelings isn’t identified, it will be harder to practice patience long-term. If your children or your job are contributing to your stress and impatience, try asking yourself what the real problem is and develop steps you can take to resolve the issue. Yoga, mediations, massages or cardio—whatever your stress reliever is, it will only get you so far to becoming your most patient self. Maybe it is as simple as getting more sleep or drinking more water, so you have more energy. Maybe, there’s a nagging chore or lack of organization that causes hectic situations to intensify. Blocking small amounts of time in your schedule to prepare or organize for the week ahead will eliminate that overwhelmed feeling. Once you’ve reached the source of your impatience, you may find the solution is simply changing a few small, routine things.
Start with small goals. No one changes their personality or tolerance for patience overnight. Identify one trigger you have and try to habitually react more positively to that trigger. According to new psychological research by the University of Warwick, you can hack your brain to form good habits simply by repeating actions until they stick. When creating new habits, start slowly. Sometimes, you can overwhelm yourself by trying to change too many things at once.
Think about each issue from a different perspective. Small frustrations can turn into calm hurdles when a person puts them into perspective. Try to remember a big problem that took you a long time to fix—and remember the timeframe the next time you’re impatient to solve a problem. Alternatively, try to remember a very large problem you tackled with relative ease. The next time you face any issue with an impatient attitude, whether big or small, remind yourself that each new issue brings with its new challenges. Therefore, you must face each new impatience you feel with a new perspective, reminding yourself that there is always a solution; you simply need to be intentionally patient to find it.