Remember how your kindergarten teacher would always remind you to wait your turn on the playground? You may have rolled your eyes back then, but as it turns out, having a little patience goes a long way.
Being able to calmly wait in the face of adversity is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of patience. It also can also boost your mood and decrease stress.
The best part? Contrary to popular belief, patience isn’t a virtue that some people are simply born with. It’s actually a skill you can work toward on a daily basis. Here’s how.
Say you’ve been waiting for your co-worker to show up to a meeting you didn’t even want to attend in the first place.
Fuming about their tardiness won’t make them magically appear. You can take that time to look over your notes or answer a few emails on your phone.
By reframing a setback as a personal win, you can manage your emotions and exercise those self-control muscles.
Meditating involves training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts away from daily annoyances. It can also help you reduce stress, control anxiety, and promote your emotional well-being — all of which help you build patience.
One 2017 study even found that mindfulness meditation can offset the particular breed of worry that happens when you’re stuck waiting for something.
Plus, you can meditate just about anywhere.
After a particularly frustrating day, take a few minutes to sit comfortably where you are and follow these steps:
- Close your eyes and focus on how your body feels in your seat.
- Allow yourself to breathe naturally, paying attention to each inhale and exhale.
- Try to keep your attention focused on your breath for at least 2 to 3 minutes.
- Interrupted by your thoughts? Don’t fight them. Simply observe them and let them pass without judgment.
Sleep deprivation can make feelings of anger or overwhelm more intense. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you might be more likely to snap at a co-worker or cut off that slow walker on the sidewalk.
Prioritize quality sleep by:
- limiting your caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and evening
- putting electronic devices away at least 30 minutes before bed
- trying to stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule, even on weekends
- avoiding heavy meals or drinking a ton of liquids at least 2 hours before going to bed
Sitting still while you wait has a way of somehow making you feel even more on edge and impatient.
The next time you find yourself waiting for an appointment or a chronically late friend, try to find some movement. Depending on your surroundings, this could involve some full-on stretching or simply standing up and going up and down on your toes.
Whatever movement you choose, the goal is to ground your thoughts in the present moment.
In a world full of instant gratification, it’s easy to fall in the habit of expecting everything to happen quickly. When you’re constantly refreshing your inbox, for example, you miss what’s in front of you.
If rushing has become your default setting, try these tips for slowing things down:
- Don’t jump out of bed in the morning. Allow yourself 5 to 10 minutes to lie with your thoughts (no phone scrolling!).
- Disconnect by spend some time away from your phone each day, whether it’s during your commute or when you get home from work.
- Block off some me time. Take a walk, play with your pet, or simply sit and look out the window.
It’s easy to get caught up in judging other people’s actions: that mom who always takes long at the school pick-up line, or the cashier who casually bags your groceries like they’ve got nothing but time.
Instead of taking these actions personally, try focusing on the things you’re grateful for. Maybe it’s taking a moment in the checkout line to acknowledge that you’re able to feed yourself or your family or pausing to appreciate your upcoming trip when you get that flight-delay notice.
Sure, having gratitude won’t change your situation, but it’ll help you remain calm and focused on the bigger picture.
Yes. Mastering patience doesn’t just keep you from losing your cool while waiting your turn. It also has numerous health benefits.
A 2007 study found that patient people were able to cope better with stressful situations and experienced less depression.
Above all, cultivating patience and being able to better handle inevitable irritations and inconveniences simply makes life a lot easier.
Patience helps you get through tough situations and make better decisions without becoming annoyed or anxious. If you’re grumbling to yourself during traffic jams or slow-moving lines, building up your waiting skills can go a long way in making life more pleasant.
Keep in mind that it’s a gradual process that won’t happen overnight. Be kind to yourself in the meantime, and spend some time focusing on the present.
Cindy Lamothe is a freelance journalist based in Guatemala. She often writes about the intersections between health, wellness, and the science of human behavior. She’s written for The Atlantic, New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, Quartz, The Washington Post, and many more. Find her at cindylamothe.com.