9 Hacks To Become More Patient

We're a species that knows a lot about waiting; according to some theories, we spend five years over the course of our lives waiting in line for something, and before we die, we'll have used up six whole months sitting at stoplights. Then, on top of those waits we're involuntarily forced into, there are waits that we choose to endure, like those of us who waste away half the year in anticipation for the next season of HBO's Game of Thrones. (Don't worry, nobody knows your pain on that one more than I do.)

Considering how much time we end up spending facing down traffic jams and long lines on weekday mornings for a cup of coffee, it's no wonder we're an impatient bunch of folks. That doesn't mean we have to succumb to the pressures of impatience, though. Multiple studies show that people report being happier with themselves when they are waiting for something to happen, compared to those who were immediately gratified — so it seems like patience is a characteristic that's worth possessing in spades. But we often tend to forget that patience is not a personality trait that has been passed down to us through the gene pool lottery — it's something we have to work at, a quality that we have to choose to cultivate. So how can you get less frustrated, and more patient? Try the nine patience hacks below.

1. Take Long, Slow Breaths

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You're a smart gal, so you knew this one was coming. As hokey as it sounds — and as overused as this tip may be — pausing for a second to take a few deep breaths can do wonders for that little impatient monster stirring inside of you. Whether your'e dealing with an annoying coworker or your anticipation of a much deserved holiday, slow inhales and exhales are scientifically proven to calm the brain, immune system, and digestion.

Mladen Golubic, a physician in the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Integrative Medicine, told NPR that breathing has "a profound impact on our physiology and our health." Simply bringing awareness to the rhythm of your own breath can relax you, as well as give you some extra energy to use later, when you really need it.

2. Keep The Big Picture In Mind

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It's all too easy to get wrapped up in what's happening in the heat of the moment. When you're stuck in gridlock traffic, your mind probably switches straight to drama — and all you can do is think about is how absolutely screwed you'll be when you walk into your meeting a few minutes late.

Well, you and I both know that's not the case. Turn your attention to the big picture instead. Will being late for this one event really affect you in the long run? Doubtful. It might make you temporarily uncomfortable, but it won't wreck your life. You'll probably forget any of this happened within a few hours, so don't allow yourself to get worked up about it now.

3. Don't Complain To The Person Next To You

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It might seem like a brilliant idea at the time, but venting to a complete stranger will only make you feel worse — and much, much more impatient. Stress is literally contagious from one person to the next, as studies have shown, so when you pass it back and forth between the random woman next to you, you'll both end up wallowing in anxiety, which won't help your stressful situation at all. Try to engage in a pleasant conversation instead. Who knows? Maybe you'll make a new friend or learn something new. Whatever happens, though, you'll be on your way to cultivating more patience.

4. Slow Down Your Thinking

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When we're waiting for something, it's common for our minds to race from one thought to the next. We revert back to to-do list thinking, trying to figure out how to get everything done and still keep our sanity; we just end up stressing ourselves out more than anything else.

To combat this kind of pointless panic-based thought process (and instead develop some patience), motivational coach and author Rob White suggested in his Huffington Post blog that we become more mindful of what it is that's putting pressure on us.

Ask yourself what's making you acutely aware of the clock — and if it's stressing you out, slow down and tap into your problem-solving skills. Don't let your mind race for no reason, as this will only heighten your feelings of impatience — and rob you of your ability to think clearly.

5. Realize Which Parts Of Your Body Are Tensing Up

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I don't know about you, but the first part of my body that goes haywire when I'm stuck in rush hour traffic are my shoulders. I shrug them up and clench super hard until my neck all but disappears — and I usually have no idea I'm even doing it. This is pretty common for all of us, though, particularly when we're forced to wait in an unpleasant situation; we clench our jaws, fidget our feet, and bite our bottom lip.

But these are all indications that we're letting the impatience take over, and the first step to regaining control of your own body is to be aware of these quirks. Turn your attention inwards and try to gradually release any edginess you notice. Putting your body in a position of relaxation will inform your mind that everything is going to be OK.

6. Chew Slowly

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This hack may sound offbeat and even irrelevant, but Charles Courtemanche, a professor of economics at Georgia State University, told Real Simple that taking your time at the dinner table can help you in all areas of life, including developing your patience — it can train you to be "less impulsive and more patient in general." Research also shows that we are more likely to make poor food choices when we're chewing really quickly. So even if you're not playing the waiting game, chew deliberately and steadily; you might build up characteristics that can be useful next time you're waiting around for that friend who's always running late.

7. Distract Yourself

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Ever carried a stress ball around? Or silly putty? As a naturally high-strung, anxious human being, I am here to inform you that little gadgets like these can save you from a mini-panic attack. They'll also prevent you from biting on your nails or picking at the scab on your elbow. So, the next time you're in a huff about how impossibly long that customer service phone call is with your internet provider, whip out something that can take your mind off of the situation. Quick moments of distractions can give you a surge of energy and make the time pass by much quicker. And the ultimate form of distraction? Rattle off a list of things you're grateful for in your life. The time will positively fly by.

8. Find Something To Laugh At

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Your sense of humor is the first thing to go when you're feeling restless, but you can slowly restore your affinity for patience by bringing joy back into your day, even if briefly. There's always something that can make you giggle, whether it's a funny memory or something entertaining happening in your vicinity right now. Take a look around at the doctor's office and notice that adorable four-year-old in the corner who is incessantly chatting with her imaginary friend. Think back to the last ridiculous thing your grandma said after her fourth glass of wine. Smiling to yourself will make waiting around a heck of a lot easier.

9. Stop Picturing The Perfect Scenario

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Yes, I know how tempting it can be. It feels pretty good to think about how great it would be if they just called another airline agent to check people in at the terminal, or how awesome it would be if you weren't stuck next to a fighting couple on your international flight. However, the more you imagine the utopia that you could be in, the more you will be disappointed with the reality of your surroundings. Do yourself a favor and stop daydreaming about the perfect version of your day; instead, try to accept what you've been given and try not to let it get to you.

Of course, we're never going to have the time of our lives twiddling our thumbs at the laundromat. But that doesn't mean we can't find some contentment while we're holding out for the seemingly boring stuff in life.

Images: Lolostock/Fotolia; Giphy (9)