3 Ways to Become a More Patient Person

By Carol Hendershot

I was not born with a strong patience gene. Before mindfulness, I was always in a hurry. I would honk at cars in the wrong lane, tap my toe in check-out lines, finish peoples’ sentences, and huff and puff when my computer wouldn’t load.

Our culture supports this way of being; our hurry-up world is always pushing us. We hear the “do more, be more” messages from parents, teachers, advertisers, and even friends. We internalize these messages, and we can’t escape; life becomes a series of to-do lists.

In this constant race for more, we lose our moments, and our moments are the lifeblood of our lives.

I’m still a work in progress, but because of my mindfulness practice, I’ve become a more patient person. I’m more patient and understanding with others, I’m better at listening, and sometimes I can even take a deep breath in a slow-moving line while smiling at the cashier. And when I screw up, I can forgive myself and move on.

What is patience and what are the benefits?
Patience is the willingness to slow down and learn from experience; it is the ability to keep calm in the face of disappointment, distress, or suffering. As John Ciardi writes, “Patience is the art of caring slowly.”
Our wisdom traditions have long praised patience as a virtue. Science is now showing that patience also supports our health and well-being. Recent studies have shown that learning patience can:
  • Improve life satisfaction and increase feelings of gratitude
  • Reduce depression, anxiety, and negative emotions
  • Improve our ability to be kind and accepting to ourselves and others
  • Help us meet our goals
  • Improve our health
Three ways to develop more patience

So, if you are like me and you weren’t born with a lot of patience, how can you develop it?

Slow Down

When we are constantly in a hurry, rushing becomes a way of life. Our habits tend to take over even when it isn’t necessary, and we feel blown off balance. By taking a breath before we charge ahead, we have time to evaluate and to see if this is just an old habit running its course. When we slow down and do one thing at a time, we are more productive and make fewer mistakes.

Practice
Allan Lokos, author of “The Art of Peaceful Living,” suggests thinking of the word patience when we open a door, start an email, or get a drink of water.

When you bring patience to the forefront of your awareness, you are more likely to be patient. You could even put a sticky note on your mirror or computer to redirect your mind.

Meditate

Learning mindfulness meditation was my path to more patience, and now I know why. A 2011 Yale University brain-imaging study found that people who meditate on a regular basis can switch off the parts of their brain associated with anxiety. Start small; commit to meditate for 3, 5, or 10 minutes every day. Tie it to something you already do daily, like brushing your teeth. Be as diligent with your meditation practice as you are with your teeth. Give yourself a reward by noticing how you feel afterward.

How to Meditate
Set a timer for 3, 5, or 10 minutes. Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight and relaxed. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Let your breath relax, and shift your attention to the sensations in your body. Feel your body making contact with the chair, your feet on the floor, or your hands on your thighs. When you are ready, bring your full attention to your breath. Feel the sensations of your body breathing in and breathing out. Don’t worry if your mind wanders – that is normal. When it does, bring your attention back to the breath. When the timer goes off, stop to notice how you feel, and see if you can bring this feeling of calm into the rest of your day.
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