Learning to be more patient in life is an admirable goal.
In the hectic modern world and with things seemingly moving faster than ever, it can be tricky to hone in the skill of practicing patience when we are used to instant gratification in so many areas of our lives.
Patience is an important skill and when practiced regularly and sensibly, it can help to support a greater sense of fulfilment in your everyday life.
So, what are some of the best ways to go about practicing and cultivating more patience in your life?
We asked a selected group of experts for their tips and advice when it comes to being more patient.
Here’s what they said.
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Think Of Patience As A Skill, Not A Trait
Dr. Suraji Wagage, Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Co-Founder of the Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness
We often think of patience as a character trait, and describe ourselves as ‘patient’ or ‘impatient’ by nature.
But patience can be cultivated, and treating it as characterological is actually the first barrier to change.
1) Think of patience as a skill you’re practicing, the same way you would if you were taking up a new hobby.
2) Impatience is a result of wishing things were different than they are and feeling frustrated by your reality.
For example, you may feel frustrated wishing that you weren’t stuck in traffic or standing in line or waiting for someone to do something.
Acknowledge this emotion – it can be as simple as telling yourself, “I’m feeling frustrated that this isn’t moving faster.” It makes sense to feel that way in that situation.
3) Impatience is also an example of getting caught up in our thoughts (e.g., “this is unfair,” “this is taking forever,” “this always happens to me!”) and emotions (e.g., anger, irritation, outrage).
When this happens, our emotions often take over and drive our behavior (e.g., yelling, pounding on the steering wheel, driving aggressively).
Taking a step back from the feedback loop of thoughts and emotions enables you to decide what you want to do in the moment.
This – mindfulness, or the nonjudgmental awareness of our present experience – underlies the skill of patience.
You can build this skill by starting to observe your experience whenever you can.
Ask yourself, “what am I thinking right now?”, “What am I feeling right now?” throughout the day.
Check in with your senses regularly – what do you see, hear, taste, smell, touch? Notice yourself breathing.
Use a reminder to check in – setting a reminder on your phone, wearing a string around your wrist, or carrying a small stone in your pocket. When you notice it, ask yourself what you are experiencing right now.
Mindfulness takes you out of “autopilot” and enables you to observe your thoughts and emotions rather than being inside your thoughts and emotions.
It also brings you into the present, as we tend to spend a lot of time mentally in the past or future.
When we are impatient, we are often thinking about the future (“The meeting is going to start without me,” “I need to be somewhere else,” etc.).
The more you become the observer of your experience, the more you can step back in a situation when you’re feeling impatient and put things in perspective (“I’m thinking I’m going to be late.” “I’m feeling frustrated.”).
Then you can decide what you want to do, or if there is anything you can do.
4) Notice small changes. Change is incremental. Any time you notice your thoughts as thoughts rather than facts, that is a success. Any time you observe your experience, that is a success.
Any time you decide what you want to do rather than having an emotion decide for you, that is a success.
Practice Patience Before The Need For It Arises
Dr. Craig Newman, Clinical Psychologist, Behavioural Economist and Coach, www.aim-you.com
Patience is long shown to relate to future success, with the ability to wait for, or invest into, a future reward being linked to goal attainment, which increases positive emotions and life satisfaction.
There are some suggestions that personality type may make patience more difficult for some than others, which sounds like bad news for us who feel impatient down to our DNA!
There is some good news, though. In short, when it comes to patience, preparation is key!
This study, led by Sarah Schnitker, showed that it comes down to practicing patience before you face the need to be patient.
The research showed that when people sat down and imagined a situation in which they are not patient, they could train themselves to learn patience – which then seemed to happen in the real world.
The training included:
• Visualising a scenario where patience is often hard.
• Noticing the emotions that you feel in these situations and the thoughts you have.
• Reframing these emotions and thoughts in way that inviting more positive ones to replace them.
• Being OK with yourself for finding this hard and inviting compassion for yourself and for others who may be involved.
Participants practiced this in short 10-15 minute meditations whilst also trying to remain relaxed with breathing exercises.
There are some key ideas here around being positive, compassionate, loving and in control of your own emotions.
Behavioural economics shows us that more impatience often comes with more impulsiveness – which supports the idea that practice will help.
Impatient people will find it hard to use any ‘tip’ in the moment and activating a rehearsed response is far more likely to work. The science is clear though, get this right and your future is usually brighter!
Choose A ‘Patience Stance’
Kellie Syfan, Certified Behavior Analyst and Owner of Applied Behavioral Happiness
As a behavior analyst and certified crisis prevention and intervention trainer, parents come to me when their kids are engaging in obnoxious, harmful, or otherwise infuriating behaviors.
We know that every behavior is a way for a child to communicate their wants and needs, so it’s our job to figure out that need and help them use a better way to get it met.
But what do we tell parents to do while their child is learning and still engaging in things like breaking items, spitting in your face, or hurting the family pet? And what do my staff do when they are starting to lose their patience?
One thing we do that helps both our staff and parents is choose a ‘patience stance’: a physical posture that communicates calm and acts as a cue from your body back to your brain that this too shall pass and that you have the strength to work through it.
Creating and choosing a specific position to take when you are on your last thread can help you find the patience you need even in the most difficult situations.
My personal stance starts with a deep breath, loosening my knees, and bringing one hand to my cheek (like I’m in deep thought).
Moving into that position can be transforming to my patience and allows me to get through even the hardest moments.
Meditation Can Help You Become More Patient
Alexander Burgemeester, Neuropsychiatrist and Founder of TheNarcissisticLife
I believe that regular mediation practice is the number one way you can become a more patient person.
These days, everyone is so busy and stressed out. We often take on more than we can handle in a given day. And that stress is what results in impatience.
So, how can we reduce this stress and become more patient? Daily mediation is the answer.
The great thing about mediation is that even if you aren’t impatient, it can help to make you less reactive in general.
You don’t have to do anything formal, just downloading something like the Calm app is a great way to get started with mediation.
Make sure you do it each day at the same time. I suggest putting it on your schedule so that you don’t get stressed trying to make time for it. Just give yourself 10 minutes each day to meditate and you’ll find yourself become less impatient.
And those times when you do notice yourself starting to feel impatient, you can use simple breathing exercises to get centered and calm.