Cultivating Greater Patience Means a Happier, Healthier You
Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is “timing” it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way. ~Fulton J. Sheen
How’s your patience quota these days? Are you able to easily tolerate waiting in lines, traffic delays, or frustration at those around you without becoming agitated or upset?
Regardless of how well you handle the holiday rush, there is no question a bit of extra patience is required this time of year.
In fact, life is full of situations that can make us lose patience; it can be as basic as people around you poking along at a snail’s pace, getting in the way and taking too much time, or someone rushing in a frenzy, bumping into you in their hurry and cutting you off in traffic to pass just one more car before they reach their turn.
Or it can be as complicated as agitation triggered by certain types of situations or people that remind you of past upsets or slights.
Learning to be patient in the face of places and issues that irritate and frustrate you can bring more calm, tranquility and peace into your life. In fact, cultivating the ability to identify and effectively manage stressors around you could be one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done, because for many of us patience does not come naturally. It can however can be cultivated, and here are just a few good reasons to make the effort.
- Less stress makes you a happier, healthier person.
- Results in clearer thinking, which means better decision-making.
- Helps develop understanding, empathy and compassion.
- Helps you understand and appreciate the process of growth.
Here are a few tips get you started:
Know Your Triggers
It may be that not everyone will agree that knowing your triggers belongs at the top of the list, but consider this … very often that “final straw” that results in our loss of patience is not the actual trigger. For example, let’s say your boss tells you at noon that you’re going to be required to work late, and isn’t at all sympathetic when you tell him your kid is the star of the Christmas pageant tonight. You begin stewing and for the rest of the day your patience level grows progressively shorter with everyone you come in contact with, until the poor schlep that happens to turn his report into you half an hour late is your “final straw,” and you blow.
The trigger was the original message delivered by your boss, but that resulted in the progressive eroding of your patience, and ultimately loss of control at the end of the day.
Identifying your triggers and the situations that make it most difficult for you to stay focused and calm, enable you to then be proactive about coming up with strategies to work with. Once you’ve identified your stressors you can try a few options for your most irritating scenarios, and of course remind yourself to breathe deeply and stay in a positive state of mind.
Be More Empathetic
Just because someone cuts you off while driving doesn’t automatically mean they are doing it to irritate you personally; they may be experiencing stressors of their own and not even aware of you – not great in traffic, but there you are. Perhaps the loud child in the store has an ear infection or is just tired and cranky. Rather than assuming people are simply being rude, try to give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they are dealing with a lot of stress themselves.
Think Before You Speak
At times we blurt out the first thought that comes into our heads without considering the consequences. If we’re patient, pause and go over what we want to say, we can avoid hurting or offending others.
If you find yourself feeling rushed while going about your normal day with no obvious reason, take a break to refocus. Will the world end if you get home five minutes late? This time of year in particular, assuming pretty much everything you do will take longer than usual, and giving yourself the gift of allocating extra time for whatever you do, will go a long way toward helping you remain calm.
Redirect Your Energy
Patience is not the rejection of our anger or pain, but simply a redirection of that energy. Would you really rather focus on the five reasons you feel so mad, or find something better to occupy your mind? Physical activity such as exercise or participating in a sport is an effective and positive way to redirect your energy. One of my favorite stress relief strategies is hitting golf balls at the driving range. Golf requires 100% of your attention, so it’s impossible to be grumpy and play well. If I’m having an especially bad day, I’ll draw a little face on the balls and imagine it’s the person who’s tested my patience and then I whack away. Works wonders!
Stay Focused on the Things That Matter
Happiness is a choice. Happy people are simply less likely to get annoyed over the little unimportant things in life. When you nurture yourself by getting enough rest, spend quality time with the people who matter in your life, and are well nourished, you are less inclined to react when a child is crying, or a waiter is rude, or your tasks take longer than expected. Take time for yourself and work on the goals for your happiness.
Patience can seem unachievable to those of us who struggle with it. Don’t worry if you slip back into “impatient mode” now and again. Patience is a skill, not an inborn talent, and therefore can be acquired by anyone with the will to learn.
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