By Yoona Ha
Grace Sanders was returning to her car in a parking lot recently and could hardly believe what she saw. Another driver had blocked her in and left. She was stuck.
And she was furious. How long was she going to be stuck here? Sanders, 55, is a psychotherapist who spends her days helping others to control their emotions and roll with the punches. And yet here she was, seething.
“I panicked at first because I felt completely trapped,” Sanders said. But her next move is one we can all learn from. “This moment turned into an opportunity for taking a deep breath,” said Sanders, who counsels patients at Novant Health Midtown Family Medicine.
So she sat in her car, turned on some music and waited it out until she could drive off.
But if a professional like Sanders with 25 years of experience struggles with patience now and then, do the rest of us stand a chance? The answer, she said, is yes.
She joins a crowd of philosophers, religious leaders and scientists who all say that there are many benefits to slowing down.
Here’s her advice for maintaining your balance and happiness when we’ve grown accustomed to demanding and rewarding instant gratification in every corner of our lives.
1. Focus on yourself instead of others
When you find yourself in frustrating situations that push your buttons, one helpful way to practice patience is to ask yourself, “How can I take a breath, right now?” Often, taking just a moment is the best form of self-care.
And patience, she said, is a lot about what you don’t do in the moment.
“It’s so easy to worry about others and get caught up with” the urge to respond or lash out, Sanders said. “Accepting your reality in that frustrating moment comes with being kind to yourself.”
For instance, when her car was blocked in, Sanders accepted her situation and took the time to decide what was best for her. It didn’t mean stomping from store to store to find out the driver in question, but rather choosing to sit and enjoy the moment of stillness she had.
2. Remind yourself that patience is a habit
Some things in life just aren’t worth rushing through. If you scan through some of the happiest memories you’ve had, for instance, it becomes clear that a lot of valuable moments have taken time.
“The world around us has ushered us into cultivating a culture of consumers who are constantly looking for meaning in life, yet we are encouraged to become shallow consumers of information,” Sanders said.
That Netflix show you enjoyed, for instance? It took months, if not years to create. If one thing we know, a lot of our favorite things and experiences have taken a while to make.
When you understand that life is worth enjoying and slowing down for, you’re already on the right path to becoming more patient. Once you start practicing, you’ll develop new habits and leave the old ones behind.
3. Smartphone apps can help
If you’d like to consistently practice patience, consider trying apps that help you slow down. There are many free or low-cost meditation apps you can download and start using.
Even the act of taking the time out of your busy day to listen to a guided meditation is one way of practicing patience.
“I recommend to my clients that when they feel overwhelmed in public they can always reach for their pocket and tune into apps with soothing music and calming voices that can help you slow down and regain control,” Sanders said.
The bottom line: Most of us are impatient, but there’s hope for everyone who wants to make it a practice, Sanders said.
“Just remind yourself to be patient with being patient — everything takes time,” Sanders said with a smile. The payoff, she said, is that you’ll be a happier person.
Novant Health contributed this story.