Your coffee order is taking too long. The movie you're looking forward to won't be out for another six months. You got a work bonus, but you should probably save up for a trip next year.
Can you wait?
What Is Patience?
Some people are naturally patient, while others are notoriously impatient. But that can change.
Patience is like a muscle. Anyone can learn the skills necessary to be a patient person. But first, you have to understand delayed gratification.
Delayed gratification. The concept of delayed gratification became apparent after the famous marshmallow experiment by Walter Mischel. Kids were left alone in a room with a marshmallow and told not to eat it. If they didn't eat the marshmallow, they'd get two at the end of the experiment.
Could you do it?
Patience allows you to temper your impulse control. It helps you manage your overwhelming desire to eat the marshmallow for a more significant payoff later. And it sounds much easier than it is.
Delaying gratification is more complicated than ever. You can access almost anything you want from your phone or laptop. A culture of instant gratification undermines every step you take to practice patience.
Want a new sweater? Buy now.
Want to watch a new movie? Stream it.
So, what can you do to be more patient?
Many of the recommended practices for patience fall under the umbrella of mindfulness. Mindfulness is about keeping an unbiased awareness of your:
- Feelings and emotion
- Physical sensations
Benefits of Mindfulness
The benefits of mindfulness work together to improve your health and make you more patient along the way. It only takes a few minutes every day to build up your patience skills.
Along with building patience, mindfulness can improve your:
- Immune system
- Sleep quality
- Stress management
- Cognitive function
- Mental sharpness
- Emotional health
Be aware of your thoughts. The first step in practicing mindfulness and improving your patience is to be aware of your thoughts and emotions. Awareness doesn't require qualifying them as "bad" or "good," just noting them. See your thoughts as an unbiased viewer.
Accept your circumstances. The second step is to accept your experiences as they are. For good and bad, it's essential to accept the current circumstance. Acceptance will let you move on to taking action.
Slow down. It's easy to move too quickly. Rushing can easily lead to impatience. When you catch yourself going fast, take a breath, slow down, and value your time.
Be comfortable being uncomfortable. To build up patience, you have to get comfortable waiting. Next time you're sitting at a stoplight, waiting in line, or holding onto concert tickets, embrace the wait. Try to enjoy the downtime.
How to Practice Being Patient
There are many varieties of mindfulness activities. For example, you can meditate, practice mindful eating, or do simple activities to get started.
There's no perfect activity to build patience. Instead, you should aim to practice mindfulness and waiting every day.
The Bell Exercise. A simple practice you can do to build patience is the bell exercise. First, make a sustained tone using a bell, guitar string, or something similar. Then, focus on the tone until you hear the sound stop entirely.
Repeat as many times as you need, ringing the bell a little louder to sustain the note longer. This introductory patience exercise can open the door to breathing meditation, guided meditation, and long-form mindfulness training.
Breathing meditation. For this exercise, all you need is a quiet place. Start with ten breaths -- or less if you're impatient. Sit, close your eyes, and start counting your breaths.
Breathe slowly and deeply. Your mind might wander. As mentioned before, take note of the thought and continue breathing.
Once you get comfortable with ten breaths, increase the amount. Push your patience to help those skills grow. Eventually, you may catch yourself enjoying the time you spend waiting.
Make Practicing Mindfulness Easy
Since mindfulness is most effective as a daily practice, you should remove as many barriers as you can. Try working on breathing exercises while you're at work or on the bus.
If you'd prefer to practice mindfulness in private, you'll need a quiet space and an allotted amount of time. You could make these more extended exercises enjoyable by investing in incense, a sitting pillow, or a white noise machine.
Regardless of your level of patience, anyone can benefit from mindfulness. Improving your patience will give you control over those long moments and prevent impulsive decisions due to impatience.