January 13, 2020
Ever noticed someone rushing to get ahead of traffic? Swerving from one lane to another. Cutting in. Cutting out. Each time, an accident ready to happen.
“One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.” Chinese Proverb
At the next stoplight, the angry driver is stuck next to you — waiting for the green light, not having gotten ahead. You can see the blood boiling and hear the horn honking because the person in front of the demanding driver could have made the light. You see the intense slamming of the steering wheel and fierce yelling through the front windshield. Yikes!
Ever noticed hints of this behavior in yourself?
Our Toxic Culture Of Instant-Gratification
One could say, living in a culture where things happen NOW breeds impatience.
Who doesn’t like the immediacy of 1) wanting something & 2) having it fulfilled in the blink of an eye? Instant downloads, purchases with one click, same-day delivery, instant messaging, you name it we got it.
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So when the internet doesn’t connect at warp speed, we have to wait for a treadmill at the gym, or the parking meter isn’t taking our credit card — it can feel unbearable!
In fact, we may lose our composure, perspective, awareness of options and belief that we can handle it without blowing up. Boom!
The Physiological Effects Of Impatience
When we are impatient, the body releases the stress hormone cortisol. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that “stress hormones stimulate platelets, making them more likely to clot in arteries already narrowed by heart disease, a process that can result in a heart attack. These hormones also cause the body’s fat cells to release fat into the bloodstream.”
Like the angry driver, we might find ourselves in “hurry up and wait” mode. Been there? When dissatisfaction with the current moment is so intense? We lose sight of what might be possible to explore or enjoy HERE & NOW because we are frustrated with the fact we aren’t THERE yet.
5 Ways to Cultivate Patience
Like most everything, we develop patience through practice. We can learn a different way to relate to ourselves, others and our lives. And yes, it is possible for anyone and everyone. Below are some ideas:
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1) Noticing times when you lost your patience and what it felt like
Do commonalities exist in these instances? Is it at the end of the day, in certain situations, or when we feel impatient or frustrated with ourselves? By raising awareness to our own triggers we can prepare better for them. Maybe today isn’t the day to have a particular conversation.
As we become aware of the felt-sense of losing patience, we can mindfully choose ways to soothe the irritation.
2) Use the STOP practice
This mindfulness practice can be used to help strengthen patience before challenging situations arise or when we’re in the midst of the emotional hijack. It’s easy to remember:
- S: Stop what we’re doing or maybe saying to take a deliberate pause.
- T: Take a mindful breath or several mindful breaths. Narrowing the focus of attention to what the breath feels like as it moves in and out of the body.
- O: Observe the bodily sensations, thoughts, emotions and even urges that are present in the moment, acknowledging they are natural and already here.
- P: Proceed. Having taken the opportunity check-in, choosing what the wisest way to proceed. What next step is best to take, or not to take with the longer term in mind. If the body is still highly activated, maybe choosing to do the STOP practice again.
3) Practicing being patient with the smaller stuff.
Of course, the more frequently we practice patience, the more it will develop. Picking 3 – 5 situations a day to intentionally be patient — letting someone merge into traffic, go ahead in the grocery store line, or holding the door for someone to enter the building first. These mindful choices will build on each other and further develop a kinder, flexible approach.
4) Taking a break by moving and shifting focus.
Sometimes, the best approach might be to step away. Feeling trapped in these challenging situations is natural. The more trapped we feel, the more likely things will escalate. The body wants to move. Even if we can’t walk away, we can still allow mindful movement in the hands, feet, neck, torso or shoulders.
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Shifting attention to sounds, smells or taste can be a beneficial change of focus. It could be a deliberate stretch or mindfully chewing a piece of gum. During this movement, deliberately shifting the focus of attention to what this freedom of movement feels like.
5) Reflect on circumstances
Sometimes the delays can be beneficial in ways we didn’t anticipate. Remember a time when you were waiting for something that didn’t happen — someone calling for a date, or with a job offer, … and something better appeared? Whew! Thank goodness!
How about stepping back to see the situation from a broader perspective.When a situation arises that tests your patience, ask yourself, “Will this matter in a year? A month? A day?”
If the answer is no or not really, how wonderful is that?! Enjoy a deep breath and let the impatience go on the exhale.
Wrtitten by eM Life teacher Ninette Hupp.