Being impatient is one of the hallmarks of our time. Daily, we receive mixed messages on the subject. The idea that we should adopt a calmer attitude is often widely promoted, while as a society, we value anything that helps us do things faster. The facts are clear: research shows that people with more patience are happier and healthier and have fewer depressive feelings. In addition, mistakes are more likely to be made in rushed circumstances, and others often perceive impatient people as unpleasant and self-centered. Fortunately, there is good news for impatient people: impatience is a habit, and so is patience. Patience is not something we have or do not have. It is a decision we make, meaning you can learn to be more patient. This article provides insight into how to make small changes to start today!
What is impatience?
To increase your patience, it is essential to understand impatience. Impatience is the difference between how something is going and how you think it should go. When something does not go as expected, it causes tension in your body. The adrenaline in your body increases, making you feel restless or rushed. In practice, an impatient response leads to minor change.
In Western societies, stress and being in a rush seem to be widely accepted ways of living. Everything faster and easier is considered better. We want to be in the shortest line and are used to answering our messages immediately. We are taught from a young age that waiting is ineffective and unproductive. In addition to our society's view on patience, other common causes of impatience can be:
– Setting the bar too high for yourself and others.
– Imposing and expecting a similar speed of working from others that you expect and can accomplish yourself.
– You might not be considering the others persons' circumstances and that everyone processes differently and adapts to change in their own ways.
Impatience is not always negative; efficiency and decisiveness are the underlying qualities. However, when it changes into a more severe form, such as impatience, you cannot deal with the fact that things are not going as efficiently or quickly as you would like. These positive qualities then change something in the communication and the relationship with the other person, becoming ineffective and unhealthy, eventually causing stress for yourself and others. In this case, it might be helpful to start making a change and training yourself to become more patient.
How to increase patience
Since patience is a habit you can teach yourself, you can also unlearn impatience. When you are waiting in a long line, you can consciously decide NOT to worry about it, just as you can choose to let out a deep sigh of frustration. Many people have impatience due to the norms and values of the society we are part of.
If you want to work on your skill to become more patient, it is essential to learn what situations trigger you to become impatient. Answer the following questions for yourself:
1. When does your impatience arise?
2. What triggers it?
3. What actions does it motivate?
After reflecting on your triggers, thoughts, and behaviors, it is time to start making changes. A few small steps you can take for yourself to increase your calmness today are:
1. Nothing will change based on your impatience. Realize that you will not change the situation with impatience. However, more patience and acceptance of the situation can help make it more pleasant for yourself (and others).
2. Be self-aware. Become aware of your non-verbal communication when feeling impatient. For example, avoid impatient reactions such as a deep sigh or looking at your watch or phone.
3. Stop multitasking and focus on one thing. For example, read, watch TV, or eat with full attention.
4. Do not instantly reply to messages. Do not answer an email or message immediately if it is not a convenient time for you.
5. Be mindful. Slow down when you go for a walk and pay attention to your surroundings.
6. Plan ahead. Leave home earlier than usual for an appointment to avoid feeling rushed.
7. Make yourself wait. Start with something small, such as waiting for the traffic lights or waiting to start eating. You will gain more patience as you practice. Eventually, set other, more significant goals.
8. Utilize the time you are waiting. Imagine you are in a waiting room. What would you do with your time in this situation? You can take advantage of it and send that email you have been putting off, reach out to friends or family, or study for the next training. In other words, you can remove the feeling of wasting your valuable time and instead, feel more productive and compassionate.
9. Entertain yourself. Bring a book or something else entertaining for when you have to wait for a longer time.
10. Be compassionate. Does someone trigger your impatience? Consider what qualities you share with that person or try to understand where the other person is coming from; understanding helps promote compassion.
11. Be thankful. Gratitude makes us less focused on ourselves and the present. In general, being thankful helps one to be more patient. It does not matter what you are grateful for, as long as it's sincere. For example, you can feel and show gratefulness by saying thank you to someone or writing about things you are grateful for in a journal daily.
12. Reframe. When noticing something or someone triggers feelings of impatience in you, try to reframe the situation differently. For example, someone is late for an appointment. Try not to think that they are wasting your time. Instead, recognize that this is an opportunity to send that email you was putting off.
13. Relax and breathe. Finally, try to relax and take deep breaths. Feeling stress coming up? Do the 3-minute breathing exercise – for one minute, pay attention to your emotions, thoughts, and bodily sensations in the moment. What are you feeling? Consciously bring your attention to your breathing and follow it for another minute. Next, bring back your attention to your body. The effect is that you stop your automatic response and decide how you want to respond.
It is worth developing patience because the calmer you are, the better the chances are that you will achieve positive results. Your emotional responses will be more appropriate, and you will increase your sense of self-control and avoid doing or saying something you might regret. Another advantage of being patient is that this ensures that you experience less stress. Prolonged stress can result in other mental health concerns, such as burnout.
If you experience challenges with reducing impatience or feel you are suffering from prolonged stress or anger, do not hesitate to seek support.
Psychology Today (2014). Understanding impatience. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/clear-organized-and-motivated/201411/understanding-impatience
Friedman, M. (2018). Sometimes it's good to have to wait. Good Housekeeping.