Updated: Feb 27, 2019
As we proceed through our daily tasks, there are many potential triggers for our negative feelings and reactions. Sometimes the smallest thing can generate a massive emotional and physical reaction, which we may regret in hindsight. One way we can prevent minor issues from turning into major issues is by cultivating patience. Practicing patience can broaden our perspective, which in turn will result in more positive feelings and reactions. Without patience, life can become an infinite series of battles filled with anger, frustration, and disappointment. Research indicates that higher patience levels are correlated with better mental health, as patient people tend to experience more positive emotions, such as gratitude, and less negative emotions. Life is too short to waste our energy on persistent negative feelings and reactions. Patience is crucial in attaining tranquility.
Patience is a quality defined as the capability to maintain serenity and/or remain on task when confronted with difficulties, or to suffer without complaining or becoming irritated. Patience is a virtue many of us desire to attain, but struggle to retain, especially during potentially irritating circumstances. Why do some people seem to have an endless supply of patience, while others display none and seem angry all the time? The difference between a patient person and one with limited patience is their interpretation and perception of events and situations in their lives. A patient person chooses to accept a situation, which cannot be changed, and perceives the virtuousness in others, when dealing with difficult people; whereas, an individual with limited patience would interpret and perceive every event in a negative light.
For example, a common situation, which is beyond our control, is being stuck in traffic. Some of us may feel extremely annoyed because the situation has triggered negative thought processes, such as "why are the other drivers so slow?!", "people don't know how to drive", "I'm going to be late again", etc. These types of thoughts exacerbate our frustration and hinder our ability to cultivate patience. A patient person will accept the situation as it is, relax, breathe, and not ruminate on it. Becoming more patient requires implementation of mindfulness and optimism. By being mindful of bodily cues and thoughts that are leading to feelings of frustration, one can alter these negative thoughts to more positive coping thoughts. For example, thoughts like "my child is making noise again on purpose" can be changed to "he/she is probably bored and can't think of something better to do". You are essentially choosing to perceive the virtue or innocence in others during infuriating situations, rather than feeding these negative thoughts, which may result in an explosive outburst. You can remind yourself that being annoyed serves no purpose, as it is not going to ease the situation nor make you feel better.
This process of mindfully altering your negative thoughts about a situation to more positive thoughts is instrumental in cultivating patience. Not only are our thoughts, behaviour, and feelings more positive when we practice patience, but our reactions to situations are more effective and functional. Practicing patience on a regular basis is helpful, as it will build our patience level and capacity to cope with difficult people and situations. The more we cultivate patience, the more relaxed and peaceful we will feel in all aspects of our life.
Carlson, R. (1997). Don't sweat the small stuff-- and it's all small stuff: Simple ways to keep the little things from taking over your life. New York: Hyperion.