From the slow, simmering frustration that builds with being on hold with a customer service representative for 30 minutes to the quick snap at your barista when she takes longer than usual to make your oat milk latte, chances are that everyone has wondered how to be more patient every now and then.
Kelly Davis, director of peer advocacy, supports, and services for Mental Health America explains that as technology advances and constant reachability can deprive us of time to rest and reset. “Even in the workplace, we’re expected to be available 24-hours a day. Now, your boss is in your pocket, your friends are in your pocket, and it’s really easy to have those expectations go both ways,” she says. “You feel the stress of other people being impatient with you, wanting you to immediately respond to things, and then you’re also expecting people to immediately respond to your needs, even if it’s not consciously.”
Besides making even the nicest people irritable, the increasing inability to tolerate delay or a wrench in the plan can have some negative effects on your health, too. “Impatience creates stress, and stress has tremendous health implications,” says Jordana Jacobs, a NYC-based licensed clinical psychologist. “When we’re under stress, it causes chronic low inflammation in the body.” And, of course, inflammation’s the culprit behind a laundry list of problems that span everything from acne to gut to digestion issues. No thanks.
So in this world that expects instant gratification all the time, how is one to cultivate patience? Experts divulge key advice, below.
1. Practice mindfulness and meditation
Both Davis and Jacobs advise bringing a mindfulness and meditation practice into your life—whether you notice your impatience or not. “A mindfulness or meditation practice can help you become more present, teach you how to control your breath, and really focus on just being aware of the things that are happening in your body and around you, and in turn that helps with being less reactive,” says Davis.
Even if you’re simply sitting on your floor for 10 minutes in silence every day, that could be enough. Davis says that once you implement this strategy, chances are you become more initially aware of the physical signs of impatience like faster breathing and tensed-up muscles, and can then slow your breath and bring yourself back to the moment (and peace!) more quickly.
2. Practice positive self-talk
You can be your own (patience) hype-woman. How to do that? Davids recommends to turn up your positive inner voice. “When you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed with impatience, try this: say ‘I have time, everything doesn’t have to happen at once, other people are doing their best, and I’m doing my best,'” she says, adding that you can even make it into a mantra, repeating it with your breath until it sticks.
When you’re practicing this positive self-talk, Davis adds that you should acknowledge your current emotions and remind yourself that what you’re feeling is only temporary. “You don’t have to come up with a solution just yet—calming yourself down should always be your first step,” she says.
3. Be patient with yourself
Of course, on the journey of becoming a Zen-like patience queen, it’s key to remember to be patient with yourself. It’s okay if you mess up sometimes (and, like, stomp past a slow-walker). “Practice self compassion when you do get impatient, because it’s a skill that you build over time,” says Davis. “We’re constantly bombarded with getting things right away and other people expecting us to do things right away, so it will take a bit of time to practice and build the muscle again.”
4. Remind yourself that life is short
If all else fails, remind yourself that life is short. Jacobs believes that understanding your limited time on earth can help you better understand your priorities, especially when it comes to the little things (like getting cut in line at the post office).
“Deep relationships, love, meaning, and purpose rise above all and we more easily disentangle from the minutiae of our daily lives,” she says, making it easier to be patient when things don’t go your way. This might not feel as helpful in the heat of the moment (who likes to be cut in line?) but having perspective can help you take a step back when you’re about to snap. Consider it the “carpe diem” approach to patience.
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