Are you always getting upset by the traffic? Or a sluggish checkout queue? Or a bad internet connection?
It takes patience to cope with everyday hassles, someone who’s angry, or life’s hardships. But it’s a virtue worth cultivating.
Because patient people are healthier, less likely to become depressed, more generous, sensitive and compassionate.
Impatience, bad temper and anger are part of your fight-or-flight response, and are intended to help you deal with dangerous predators. But they’re out of place in your social life. Because your body’s reacting to every minor irritation as if it were genuinely life-threatening.
So if you often lose your temper or get snappy, you might like to work on your patience.
Start by figuring out what sort of things set you off — careless colleagues, technical glitches, slow-moving traffic, whatever.
And think about what’s going through your mind right then. Because there’s something you’re saying to yourself that’s telling your body that you’re under threat.
So instead, try saying something that will keep you out of fight-or-flight mode.
For example, if standing in a long queue drives you crazy, try repeating something like “I’m in no hurry at the moment,” under your breath. Of course, waiting is annoying, but be realistic: it will soon pass, and you’ll soon forget it ever happened. Because the actual consequence of a few minutes’ delay is rarely life threatening.
It’s also worth trying to think about irritating situations from a different point of view. So instead of feeling annoyed by a tiresome co-worker, try thinking about how coping with them is helping you to grow as a person. Or if your children are driving you nuts, try thinking about how being a good parent is part of your values.
You’ll need to train your patience, just like an athlete builds their strength and skills. So start practising being patient during less important situations where the stakes aren’t so high.
Say your “keep out of fight-or-flight mode” phrase to yourself every time you notice you’re feeling even slightly short-tempered, and focus on how coping is making you a better person.
Because patience is like any other skill. If you practice it every day and remind yourself of how becoming patient is important to you, it will grow just like an athlete’s muscles.
Alongside recognising your triggers and practising staying out of fight-or-flight mode, start reducing the stress in your life. So if your impatience trigger is killing time, have a game on your phone that you play only in waiting rooms. If you loathe the traffic, set off earlier. If you hate crowded grocery stores, go shopping at off-peak times.
And set yourself more realistic targets. Because any slight setback has the potential to throw you off-track if your day is planned down to the last minute. So allow yourself enough time to cope with life’s hassles, and your day will be more relaxed.