Here's a riddle: What do traffic jams, long lines and waiting for a vacation to start all have in common?
Aside from the painfully obvious fact that they're completely unwelcome stressors in our lives, there's another answer: They're all situations where we could use a little extra patience.
In our defense, it's not really surprising or fault-worthy if we don't practice the virtue often. In a digitally obsessed world, we're used to having what we need immediately and right at our fingertips. Even further, we're constantly busy. Between rushing from work, to home, to kids' recitals or Zumba class, it's no wonder we don't really have patience. Our environment makes us think that we don't have the time for it.
However, despite our aversion, research suggests that if we practiced patience, we'd be a whole lot better off. Here are five ways we can learn to cultivate more patience -- and why we should want to.
Thankfulness has a multitude of benefits: Research shows it makes us happier, less stressed and even more optimistic -- and according to a March 2014 study published in the journal Psychological Science, it can also help us practice more patience.
"Showing that emotion can foster self-control and discovering a way to reduce impatience with a simple gratitude exercise opens up tremendous possibilities for reducing a wide range of societal ills from impulse buying and insufficient saving to obesity and smoking," Ye Li, researcher and assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside School of Business Administration, told the Association for Psychological Science. Getting rid of our need for instant gratification with a simple gratitude exercise? We'll take it.
Be mindful of what is making you feel rushed.
Our mental to-do lists have a tendency of becoming like a traffic jam for our brains. Soon we're so occupied with what we have to do, we're intolerant of anything (like actual traffic) that gets in the way of it. "Our minds are constantly jumping from thought to thought, task to task, worry to worry," motivational coach and author Rob Whitewrote in a HuffPost blog. "We live interrupted lives, punctuated with distractions that come at us from all sides. Multi-tasking is the norm ... All this adds up to a state of hurry."
Mindfulness, or awareness of our thoughts, can do a lot of good when we have a million things going through our heads. Write out your thoughts or what you have to do in order to get a tangible frame on what's making you so impatient, White wrote. "These steps alone will illuminate the insanity of the jumping mind and the value of slowing down," he explained.
Make yourself wait.
Instant gratification may seem like the the most "feel good" option at the time, but psychology research actually implies the opposite. According to one recent study, waiting for things actually makes us happier in the long run. And the only way for us to get into the habit of waiting (and as a result, reap the joyful benefits) is to practice. Start with small tasks: Put off watching your favorite show until the weekend or wait 10 extra minutes before going for that brownie. You'll soon find that the more patience you practice, the more you start to apply it to other, more irritating situations.
Embrace the uncomfortable.
Too often we think we should be in a state of adjustment, and when we experience something outside of our comfort zone, we get impatient about the circumstances. But as Jane Bolton, Psy.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist, wrote in a Psychology Today blog post, we need to become comfortable with the uncomfortable in order to cultivate a little more patience:
So many of us have the belief that being "comfortable" is the only state we will tolerate. I remember a friend, about 25 years ago, who was in the process of changing a destructive habit. He had learned to say to himself, "This is merely uncomfortable, not intolerable." It helped him enormously to break his habit, and helped me begin to look at my own avoidance patterns [when it comes to impatience].
Do a little deep breathing.
When all else fails, try taking a few big breaths. The simple exercise has the power to calm the mind and body. This relaxing effect can in turn help ease those impatient jitters that may come with agonizing traffic or an irksome individual. No additional tools required.
This GPS Guide is part of a series of posts designed to bring you back to balance when you're feeling off course.
GPS Guides are our way of showing you what has relieved others' stress in the hopes that you will be able to identify solutions that work for you. We all have de-stressing "secret weapons" that we pull out in times of tension or anxiety, whether they be photos that relax us or make us smile, songs that bring us back to our heart, quotes or poems that create a feeling of harmony or meditative exercises that help us find a sense of silence and calm. We encourage you to visit our other GPS Guides here, and share with us your own personal tips for finding peace, balance and tranquility.