You! Too! Can Become More Patient

Patience isn’t easy, but it’s good for you. Try these strategies to stay calm in that long, long line.

Take a number in a waiting room
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Distract yourself. So you're standing in line at the DMV. For two hours. Dampen those negative feelings by playing a game on your iPhone , reading a chapter of a trashy romance novel, or squeezing in a call you've been meaning to make. "What can you do to refocus your energy?" Hartstein says. "Maybe this is a chance to think about the things you'd like to do later, or turn the frustration into something enjoyable. If you don't usually get time to flip through a magazine because you're busy, do that while you're in line."

[See How to Control Road Rage.]

Look at the bigger picture. Did that guy in the Volkswagen cut you off to deliberately tick you off? Is the barista taking a painstakingly long time because she has a vendetta against you? Probably not. Keep in mind that anyone who tries your patience could be in the midst of their own awful day—and not out to make things worse for you. "I was being a bit of a jerk when I was getting impatient and road raging," Cundy says. "I've realized that other people have things going on, too, and now I can take a second and empathize. Maybe their car is breaking down, and on top of that you're screaming at them on the road. Remember that other people have lives too, and your issues aren't at the center of that."

Expect the unexpected. Nothing will go your way all the time. Keep your expectations realistic, and realize that, sometimes, it's necessary to roll with whatever life tosses our way. Losing your patience won't make subpar situations any better. Flexibility and acceptance will.

Embrace it. "There's definitely a place for impatience," Cundy says. "You can't always sit there and be OK in the moment. Sometimes you do need to move things along." The trick is knowing how to recognize those situations. "It comes with practice and understanding where your impatience is coming from and why," Cundy says. "Then you can figure out how to act on it." If, for example, five people came into the sandwich shop after you, but were helped before you, no one will blame you for speaking up.

Be patient with your impatience. You're not going to change overnight. And that's OK: "You have to be patient as you learn patience," Hartstein says. "We tend to be an immediate gratification society, and want what we want when we want it, even when we're learning a new life skill. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. It's important to give yourself time to learn it, and accept the fact that it will be a challenge to learn."

[See Type D Personality: How Distress Affects Your Health.]

And, good news: You've already made it through this story, which is a sign that there's patience within you. Congratulations!