How to Be a More Patient Person

Here is an excerpt from an article by by Anna Goldfarb for The New York Times. To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain subscription information, please click here.

Credit: James Clapham

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Relax. It’s going to be O.K.

My jaw clenches when Hulu videos buffer. I huff and puff when stuck in a sluggish line at a coffee shop. Slow cars in the fast lane send me into a curse-filled tizzy. I’m ashamed how quickly I lose my cool over these minor things. I’ve often wished I could be a more patient person, but it’s overwhelming to know where to start.

Patience, the ability to keep calm in the face of disappointment, distress or suffering, is worth cultivating. The virtue is associated with a variety of positive health outcomes, such as reducing depression and other negative emotions. Researchers have also concluded that patient people exhibit more prosocial behaviors like empathy, and were more likely to display generosity and compassion.

A 2012 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology identified three distinct expressions of patience: 1. Interpersonal, which is maintaining calm when dealing with someone who is upset, angry or being a pest. 2. Life hardships, or finding the silver lining after a serious setback. And 3. Daily hassles, which is suppressing annoyance at delays or anything irritating that would inspire a snarky tweet.

The good news is that same study found that patience as a personality trait is modifiable. Even if you’re not a particularly patient person today, there’s still hope you can be a more patient person tomorrow. So if you find yourself getting exasperated more than you’d like, here are ways to keep those testy impulses in check.

[Here is the first suggestion.]

Identify your trigger(s)

Impatience is the “fight” component of the fight-or-flight response, according to M.J. Ryan, executive coach and author of The Power of Patience: How This Old-Fashioned Virtue Can Improve Your Life. “That’s why you’re honking at people or annoyed in the line or whatever it is you’re doing that’s your impatient behavior,” she said.

Amygdalae are the culprit. This almond-shaped set of nervous tissue in our brains is responsible for sussing out threats and regulating emotions. While this component of the limbic system is perfectly calibrated for protecting our ancestors from ferocious predators, it’s not as adept at determining credible threats in modern life.

As a result, many react to irritating situations as if these encounters were more dire than they actually are. The amygdala, Ms. Ryan said, is too unsophisticated to know the difference between a true danger (say, a growling tiger) and something substantially less life-threatening (dealing with an obnoxious person).

Figure out which situations set you off — careless drivers, technological glitches, slow-moving cashiers, etc. — and you’re already on your way to taking control.

Here is a direct link to the complete article.

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