“Without patience, we will learn less in life. We will see less. We will feel less. We will hear less. Ironically, rush and more usually mean less.” – Mother Teresa
Patience is a beautiful word which can be defined as “the capacity to accept or tolerate annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.”
In such a dynamic digital world, we’re accustomed to having what we need immediately and right at our fingertips, so our capacity for acceptance and tolerance isn’t highlighted as often. Thus, when we’re confronted with a situation that does call for our patience–waiting in line, sitting in traffic–we might find it to be overwhelmingly frustrating.
It may seem like there’s no space to slow down in today’s world, but we must practice it daily if we’re to build a peaceful inner world.
The nature of our environment calls for more patience, and it begins with each of us. We will not see peace in the world until we learn to generate peace within ourselves.
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
By learning to become more patient human beings, we cultivate healthier relationships, others view us in a more positive light, we experience less stress, and we begin to turn the key to greater happiness.
If you feel like your capacity for patience has dwindled, remember that anything worth your while takes time, and a real effort. In fact, your ability to be patient hasn’t disappeared; it’s merely dormant, untapped potential. You’re absolutely capable of strengthening your inner peace by building the practice of patience into your daily activities.
The following exercises may seem like common sense, but that certainly doesn’t mean they’re common practice. Action transforms simple intentions into radical shifts.
- Acknowledge your feelings.
Identify the symptoms you’re experiencing, as well as their possible causes. As you become aware of their presence, write them down, or at least make a mental note of them. Symptoms can manifest as:
- Shallow breathing.
- Heat in your chest.
- Clenched fists.
- Clenched jaw.
- Rounded shoulders.
- Tension in the hands, arms, neck, or anywhere else in the body.
- Explosive emotions in the form of yelling, tears, etc.
- Consciously relax your muscles.
We often tense our muscles involuntarily when we’re impatient. Once you’ve identified the symptoms of impatience, you can voluntarily let them go.
Perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Gently touch, massage, or breathe into each part of your body, from your toes to the top of your head. Imagine the impatience melting away as your tension loses its hold.
- Take deep breaths.
Breath is the body’s built-in stress reliever. There are a number of breathing exercises you can employ to distance yourself from the stress of the situation at hand. The 4-7-8 breathing method not only helps you fall asleep easier, but it brings you back down to earth so you can act from a center of calm, even in the middle of the storm.
- Use the SODA method.
This is a stress relief method that calls for you to stop, observe, detach, and awaken to a higher vision for the situation.
- As soon as you realize your emotional tell kicking in, say aloud or in your head: STOP.
- This interruption to your stress response gives you the opportunity to break the stress cycle and forge a new path.
- See yourself through a wider lens. Imagine you are a bigger version of you, floating above your body and above the situation.
- You may need to float up to the ceiling or the clouds or even the moon before you feel you can comfortably observe the situation with a wider perspective. The goal is to replace subjective individuals with an objective One.
- Imagine how small your two bodies would look from above. You may not even be able to tell that they are two separate bodies at all.
- Put energetic and physical distance between you and who–or what–is upsetting you. Roll your chair back from the computer. Move the phone farther away from your ear. Rock back on your heels if you’re face-to-face with your stress.
- Breathe in deeply. Inhale the moment.
- This step works well when you simultaneously create distance (even if it’s an inch) and take a deep breath in.
- 4. Awaken.
- Exhale and ask yourself, “What would the best version of ‘me’ do?”
- Our best version is compassionate, forgiving, clear, and defenseless. Our best self leads with love. Ultimately what we’re doing is choosing love over fear.
- Repeat affirmations.
When you start to feel a hint of chaos settling in, whisper these words to yourself, and speak with genuine belief. The following statements can change the way you look at everything:
- “I trust life.”
- “I choose love.”
- “I am willing to change my mind.”
- “I am willing to see things differently.”
- “I choose the present moment.”
If you can’t genuinely believe in any of these or other positive affirmations, try variations that make it more believable and appropriate for where you are. For instance, you can say “I am willing to trust the process” or “I request to see things differently” or “I am learning to choose love whenever I can.”
- Practice short meditations.
Focusing on deep belly breaths, where your stomach comes forward with each inhale, you can effectively slow down your response to stress. Imagine each full inhale holding all of your stress. Visualize the stress disappearing a little more with each exhale. Try this 16 second meditation for beginners or another favorite short meditation, called “Peace begins with me.”
- Cultivate compassion.
If we notice ourselves holding onto an impatient attitude, we can shift our gaze to compassion. We can ask ourselves: “How can I be more compassionate right now?” or “What positive impact can I make?” or “How can I transform this frustration into something useful for someone?”
Becoming more compassionate beings will help us improve our relationships, lower our stress levels, and feel less alone in the world. We will be more inclined to want to understand others rather than judge them, and this kindness in action comes back full circle. We will feel better.
- Get grateful.
Research shows that gratitude can reduce impatience. It also opens our eyes to the good things, and the small things we otherwise would take for granted. Perhaps this situation isn’t as stressful as it needs to be; there’s always something to be thankful for and another way of seeing things. Remind yourself why you’re grateful.
9. Be mindful of your mental activity.
Mindfulness, or awareness of our thoughts in this moment, can do a lot of good when we have a million things dancing through our heads.
Take a mental roll call of what’s going on inside: What are you thinking? Why are you thinking that? Is this thought serving you? Identifying our thoughts illuminates the hectic nature of the jumping mind and thus reminds us that we’re more than our thought patterns, with the power to choose other, more uplifting and supportive thoughts.
There is value in slowing down inside, even when we’re actively pursuing something outside.
- Practice waiting.
Waiting may actually contribute to our happiness. Learn to enjoy the journey just as much as the end goal. Whenever you’re in a situation where you need to wait, look at it as part of your patience practice, and thereby transform waiting into a positive (even productive) habit rather than a stressful situation in and of itself.
With practice, waiting isn’t nearly as uncomfortable or irritating as it once was. Here are a few small-scale ways to do this:
- Consciously walk slower.
- Chew your food slowly.
- Get in the longer line at the grocery store.
- Go for a long, quiet walk in nature.
- Dedicate five minutes to focusing intently on something in nature (a butterfly, the waves, passing clouds).
- Refrain from looking at your phone for increasing intervals of time.
- Believe you’re meant to be here, doing this.
View every moment of your life as a lesson disguised in circumstance. Wherever you are, there you shall be. At the time of my writing this post, the human race has not yet invented a time machine that teleports beings across time and space. I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s useless to live anywhere else, for an extended period of time, besides right here and right now.
Life needs you here so that you can teach something, learn something, grow, and love.
Often, our impatience stems from a root cause that the above exercises help to chip away at. Sometimes, we need greater assistance in overcoming our impatient behaviors. Yet understanding why we are impatient is the biggest step to recognizing and transforming the beliefs that hold us back from being more peaceful people.
The root cause of my impatience stemmed from an insatiable perfectionism, internal pressure to get more done, and an overwhelming sense that I wasn’t enough.
If I’m rushing through life now, I know there’s power in taking a step back and requesting to see things differently–there’s a huge potential to shift away from impatience and back to peace.
I hope the above has helped you 🙂
Wherever you are in the world, have a lovely day ❤