Practicing Active Patience

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    What do long lines in traffic or waiting to be seated in restaurants have in common?  These situations are out of our control and are triggers for stress and impatience.  We live in times of instant gratification. We are used to having what we want right at our fingertips. We have seen pizza joints advertise “If delivery is 2 minutes late, your next pizza is free”.  This kind of lifestyle is teaching us that waiting is not a virtue.

    What happens when waiting becomes painful? You can feel your body getting tense, and you’re getting quite cross. You suddenly yell at the person for being slow. You can tell the other person is hurt, but you can’t help it. That person is the reason for your delay. But the problem is, that it is not the outside situation that’s the cause of our pain. It’s our mind that is the cause of discomfort, not the outer circumstances.

    So, what’s the purpose of building patience abilities? We are more happy, have better relationships, and can experience more success.  This is a skill that is worth developing. Most people who are patience “professionals” recommend that we train ourselves to work with little pains and irritations so that when the big ones come, we will have developed the patience we need for adversity.

    Tips on how to develop patience

    • Take deep, slow breaths, and count to 10. Deep breathing slows your heart rate, relaxes your body, and distances you emotionally from the situation. If you’re feeling really impatient, you might need to do a longer count.
    • Impatience causes muscles to tense up. So, consciously focus on relaxing every part of the body as you breathe. Relax your muscles, from your toes up to the top of your head.
    • Force yourself to slow down. Slow down your movement and your talk. This brings some calmness and allows you to slowly ease into the situation.
    • Remind yourself that impatience does not get any positive results. It creates more stress, which is completely unproductive.
    • Take a day where you make patience your goal for the entire day. Take your time and think about everything you do, be mindful and live in the moment. At the end of the day, spend time reflecting on when you were patient, got along better with others and how it made you feel. Learn to do it on a daily basis. Developing patience is much like physical exercise because it requires persistence and effort.
    • Practice delaying gratification.When you want to reach for that dessert, second drink, or buying another pair of shoes, stop, make yourself wait, and think about whether you really need it.  You can save yourself some money or added calories.
    • Reading requires patience. One unconventional way to develop patience is to read more and read slowly.
    • Spending time outdoors and being with nature helps relax the body and mind. Taking on a hobby like gardening which requires lots of work and waiting before seeing your favorite flower bloom is a good patience teacher.
    • Last but not least, practice yoga and meditation on a daily basis. Yoga and meditation is known to reduce stress and make us calm and joyful.

    Without patience this world would be a tough place to live as many of our actions would be counter-productive. The more patient we are, the likelier we are to have good interpersonal relationships with our peers and our managers, not to mention our family and friends. Patience is definitely a valuable skill and character trait to develop. Surely, patience is a time-tested virtue.