Patience is a much-touted virtue, but the nation’s rage-infested highways, tiff-provoking subway cars and testy grocery checkout lines indicate that it’s one virtue that’s in short supply. There’s hope for redemption, however, even for the bird-flipping, bumper-huggers among us.
Here are six changes you can make to cultivate greater patience with yourself, your spouse, your surroundings, family, and colleagues — even that yo-yo who’s selfishly taking up two seats on the subway during rush hour (I mean, c’mon!).
1. Remind yourself that patience is an aspect of love.
In our me-centric, purpose-driven culture it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of considering other people’s feelings, especially loved ones. But choose to ignore their needs and you might just find yourself spending a lot of time alone in your room, brooding. So next time you want to ream out your husband for forgetting to buy milk again, remind yourself that patience is a key component of a healthy relationship.
“Impatience is hurtful and pushes your partner away,” says Nancy Ross, a relationships therapist based in Toronto.
In contrast, “patience is kind and gentle and leaves space for others to be able to think and take emotional risks. Patience helps partners/friends/colleagues feel safe and valued.”
2. Count your losses, Oh, prickly one.
Impatience makes us brittle, prickly and hard to deal with. And who really wants to be that person?
“It’s hard to hug a porcupine,” says Toronto-based marriage and family therapist Marion Goertz, making light of how a gruff attitude may unintentionally result in the loss of valuable friendships and opportunities.
So if you can’t get into the whole patience-as-virtue idea, then take a craftier view and employ patience as a wise social strategy. Not convinced, Goertz says ask yourself: “What would be the cost or benefit to me to dial it down a little, to breathe a little more easily, to be playful, unstructured, spontaneous a little more often?”
The cost is nothing. The benefits are limitless. You may even get more hugs.
3. Slow down, superwoman!
Pump the brakes on your 24/7 dash through life. “We think we have to rush, rush, rush and accomplish so much,” says Ross. But it’s thinking and behaving like you are some kind of multi-tasking superhero that contributes to unpleasant flare-ups when life gets in your way.
When you slow down and cut yourself some slack you do the same for others — impatience morphs into patience and heck, you may even smile. Trust in slowing down and focus not on where you need to go, but where you are, says Ross. If you happen to be jammed cheek to jowl on the subway at rush hour console yourself with the fact that you’re not alone and mercifully you only have four more stops to go.
4. Keep your blood sugar steady.
Think your diet isn’t contributing to your short temper or snappiness with your mother on the phone? Think again, says Victoria-based dietitian Danielle Van Schaick.
“When blood sugar levels drop, you feel moody, low energy and most of all irritable (i.e. not at all calm or patient). I call it ‘hangry’ (hungry + angry = hangry),” says Van Schaick.
Curb unnecessary ‘hanger’ by eating a small meal or snack every two to four hours.
5. Eat for a happy brain, not a stressed one.
You eat for comfort when stressed but it is possible to eat your stress away!” says Julie Daniluk, nutritionist and host of OWN’s Healthy Gourmet.
Foods that contribute to a “happy” brain include fatty fish like salmon or mackerel, which contains omega-3s and vitamin B12. Berries are a good snack choice, says Daniluk, because they contain vitamins that help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
6. Take a timeout.
When feeling overwhelmed, take a step back from confrontation and calmly explain why the timing is off for you, says Ross. That may mean you gently let a colleague know that you can’t talk about work right now or you’ll miss your train, or that you ask your partner to wait to discuss the mortgage renewal for the weekend when you’re feeling up to the talk.
7. Breathe don’t hyperventilate.
Practice makes patience. And a deep breathing practice really does cultivate greater calm, says Casey Soer, co-founder of Spynga.
Next time you find yourself in full hyperventilation mode, try this technique, says Soer: Inhale through your nose, then exhale slowly through a wide-open mouth. Direct the out-going breath slowly across the back of your throat with a drawn-out ‘HA’ sound (like you do when you are cleaning your sunglasses). Repeat several times, and then close your mouth. Now, as you both inhale and exhale through your nose, direct the breath again slowly across the back of your throat. Ideally, this will create, and you should hear, a soft hissing sound.
Tell us in the comment section below: What do you do to improve your patience?