15 Scientific Tricks to Make Waiting Easier

istock
istock

Waiting in line is a miserable experience in most situations, but it’s a boon for social psychologists who want to study group dynamics. A bunch of strangers in a stressful, annoying situation trapped for long periods of time are great for data collection. Scientists haven’t figured out how to eliminate long lines entirely, but they have spent many decades figuring out what makes the experience slightly more bearable. Here are 15 scientific tricks that might make your wait a little easier. 

1. Turn on some music. 

Several studies find that listening to music can reduce the stress of waiting, whether you’re stuck in line or anxious to hear your name called in a hospital waiting room. Even if the music isn’t necessarily your favorite band, it can make the experience more bearable. In one study, callers who listened to panpipe music were willing to wait on hold for 20 percent longer than people who only heard a verbal message warning them that there was a wait. 

2. Bring a friend. 

In a 1992 study, participants who socialized during a 10-minute wait did not find the interval stressful. In comparison, people who waited with strangers and kept to themselves experienced stress (which was then alleviated by listening to music). The same rationale can apply to waiting for longer periods of time, like anticipating an upcoming trip. Fill your downtime with social events and the wait won’t feel as long. 

3. Be mindful. 

Scientists find that mindfulness can help ease anxiety and stress—feelings that can kick into overdrive during a wait. When you’re stuck behind a dozen families trying to mail that package at the post office on the Saturday before Christmas, try a little mindfulness meditation. Focus on your breathing and the present moment, and try to let go of any thoughts that pop into your head. 

4. Think about that money-back guarantee. 

When companies guarantee to serve their customers within a certain amount of time—like with a 30-minutes-or-less pizza delivery—making good on that guarantee makes customers feel more satisfied with their experience than they would be if they had not been quoted a maximum time. So if you’re promised a 30-minute wait for your pizza but you get it in 25, you’ll be happier. 

5. Accept that waiting is unavoidable. 

People need to feel that waiting is fair and equitable, or it feels even more intolerable. (Think about any time you’ve been at the back of a long line only to see someone cut to the front.) When waiting is seen as unavoidable (such as when a flight gets snowed in or when a crowded restaurant has a wait for a table), it’s more tolerable than when there’s no discernible reason for the wait or when it seems like it could be easily avoided (like when there’s a crowd waiting at a checkout with no cashiers). It may not be pleasant, but people generally feel more at peace with a long wait if they know why it’s happening and feel that it’s an inexorable part of the experience. 

6. Take a deep breath. 

You don’t have to go fully into meditation mode to calm down. Try just breathing. Take slow, deep, even breaths from your abdomen. This lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood and kicks off the body’s relaxation response, lowering blood pressure and anxiety levels and making you feel calm. 

7. Think of it as practice. 

Patience is related to self-control, which some studies have found can be bolstered by practice. For instance, in one study of smokers, people who exercised self-control regularly for two weeks by avoiding desserts were more successful at quitting tobacco than people who didn’t practice self-control. So think of exercising patience as being kind of like going out for a run. It’s unpleasant, but the next time you need to run up the stairs or deal with a truly frustrating situation, the training might come in handy.

8. Remember that the wait feels longer than it is. 

Uncertainty, anxiety, and boredom all make waiting feel even longer. Not having anything to do while you wait in line for an unknown amount of time (except wonder if you’ll be late to work) will make your wait feel eternal. Psychology studies regularly find that people overestimate the time they spend waiting. Just remember that it’s not as bad as you think it is. 

9. If there’s a way to estimate your wait time, do it. 

People who look at real-time information about when buses are arriving do not perceive their wait time to be as long as those who have no idea when the bus will come. In one study, Seattle bus riders who used a real-time transit information app that kept them apprised of how many minutes away the bus was estimated their wait time to be 30 percent shorter than people who used traditional bus schedules (which don’t take delays into account). 

10. Admire the efficiency of the waiting experience. 

Fast food restaurants are very deliberate in the way they design their drive-thru windows. The customer orders at one window, then has to drive around the building to pay and pick up food (sometimes at separate windows). This means that different customers can be ordering, paying for, and receiving their orders all at the same time at various points in the line, reducing the backup created when people are fumbling for change or are slow in taking their food and driving away. Having to drive from one window to the other fills the wait time between ordering and receiving your food, too. 

11. Look for single lines that feed into multiple counters. 

One of the things that annoys people most about waiting is the perception that the line is not fair—that you won’t be served in the order you arrived. Feeling that a wait is unfair makes the time pass even slower. However, single lines that feed into multiple counters (like at the check-in counter at an airport or at a bank, where everyone waits in the same place for their turn with one of several available clerks) are perceived as significantly more fair. No one has to worry about whether they accidentally chose the wrong checkout line and got stuck behind that one slow person counting out pennies on the counter.  

12. Practice anxiety reduction. 

Anxiety is one of the key emotions that makes waiting feel even longer. If you’re anxiously awaiting some future event, try an anxiety management technique like deep muscle relaxation. In this exercise, you sit or lie in a quiet space, close your eyes, and focus on tightening and relaxing all the muscles in your body, one by one. Regular practice will help you get the most out of this stress reduction activity. 

13. Imagine the experience you’re about to have. 

Waiting is more pleasurable when you’re anticipating a coming event than when you’re waiting to make a purchase, psychologists find. Part of this may be because when anticipating an experience, you think about it in abstract terms: You can imagine all the possibilities of your upcoming vacation, while you know exactly what you’ll do with your new pair of pants. Being able to visualize the different scenarios and feelings that will arise makes waiting more pleasurable. 

14. Pay attention to anything but the wait. 

Studies find that watching the clock makes a wait feel longer. When waiting is the primary task, people estimate the time period to be longer than when they’re doing something else. So try to concentrate on something—anything—else. 

15. Think about it in terms of delayed gratification. 

While people like anticipating experiences more than anticipating buying products, waiting to buy something can still be enjoyable. All that waiting can make a purchase feel more valuable and important. Instead of thinking about being at the end of a long checkout line or not being able to buy that new phone until next year, think about all the enjoyment you’ll experience once you finally have it in your possession. 

10 of the Best Indoor and Outdoor Heaters on Amazon

Mr. Heater/Amazon
Mr. Heater/Amazon

With the colder months just around the corner, you might want to start thinking about investing in an indoor or outdoor heater. Indoor heaters not only provide a boost of heat for drafty spaces, but they can also be a money-saver, allowing you to actively control the heat based on the rooms you’re using. Outdoor heaters, meanwhile, can help you take advantage of cold-weather activities like camping or tailgating without having to call it quits because your extremities have gone numb. Check out this list of some of Amazon’s highest-rated indoor and outdoor heaters so you can spend less time shivering this winter and more time enjoying what the season has to offer.

Indoor Heaters

1. Lasko Ceramic Portable Heater; $20

Lasko/Amazon

This 1500-watt heater from Lasko may only be nine inches tall, but it can heat up to 300 square feet of space. With 11 temperature settings and three quiet settings—for high heat, low heat, and fan only—it’s a dynamic powerhouse that’ll keep you toasty all season long.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Alrocket Oscillating Space Heater; $25

Alrocket/Amazon

Alrocket’s oscillating space heater is an excellent addition to any desk or nightstand. Using energy-saving ceramic technology, this heater is made of fire-resistant material, and its special “tip-over” safety feature forces it to turn off if it falls over (making it a reliable choice for homes with kids or pets). It’s extremely quiet, too—at only 45 dB, it’s just a touch louder than a whisper. According to one reviewer, this an ideal option for a “very quiet but powerful” heater.

Buy it: Amazon

3. De’Longhi Oil-Filled Radiator Space Heather; $79

De’Longhi/Amazon

If you prefer a space heater with a more old-fashioned vibe, this radiator heater from De’Longhi gives you 2020 technology with a vintage feel. De’Longhi’s heater automatically turns itself on when the temperatures drops below 44°F, and it will also automatically turn itself off if it starts to overheat. Another smart safety feature? The oil system is permanently sealed, so you won’t have to worry about accidental spills.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Aikoper Ceramic Tower Heater; $70

Aikoper/Amazon

Whether your room needs a little extra warmth or its own heat source, Aikoper’s incredibly precise space heater has got you covered. With a range of 40-95°F, it adjusts by one-degree intervals, giving you the specific level of heat you want. It also has an option for running on an eight-hour timer, ensuring that it will only run when you need it.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Isiler Space Heater; $37

Isiler/Amazon

For a space heater that adds a fun pop of color to any room, check out this yellow unit from Isiler. Made from fire-resistant ceramic, Isiler’s heater can start warming up a space within seconds. It’s positioned on a triangular stand that creates an optimal angle for hot air to start circulating, rendering it so effective that, as one reviewer put it, “This heater needs to say ‘mighty’ in its description.”

Buy it: Amazon

Outdoor Heaters

6. Mr. Heater Portable Buddy; $104

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Make outdoor activities like camping and grilling last longer with Mr. Heater’s indoor/outdoor portable heater. This heater can connect to a propane tank or to a disposable cylinder, allowing you to keep it in one place or take it on the go. With such a versatile range of uses, this heater will—true to its name—become your best buddy when the temperature starts to drop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiland Pyramid Patio Propane Heater; Various

Hiland/Amazon

The cold’s got nothing on this powerful outdoor heater. Hiland’s patio heater has a whopping 40,000 BTU output, which runs for eight to 10 hours on high heat. Simply open the heater’s bottom door to insert a propane tank, power it on, and sit back to let it warm up your backyard. The bright, contained flame from the propane doubles as an outdoor light.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Solo Stove Bonfire Pit; $345

Solo Stove/Amazon

This one is a slight cheat since it’s a bonfire pit and not a traditional outdoor heater, but the Solo Stove has a 4.7-star rating on Amazon for a reason. Everything about this portable fire pit is meticulously crafted to maximize airflow while it's lit, from its double-wall construction to its bottom air vents. These features all work together to help the logs burn more completely while emitting far less smoke than other pits. It’s the best choice for anyone who wants both warmth and ambiance on their patio.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dr. Infrared Garage Shop Heater; $119

Dr. Infrared/Amazon

You’ll be able to use your garage or basement workshop all season long with this durable heater from Dr. Infrared. It’s unique in that it includes a built-in fan to keep warm air flowing—something that’s especially handy if you need to work without wearing gloves. The fan is overlaid with heat and finger-protectant grills, keeping you safe while it’s powered on.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Mr. Heater 540 Degree Tank Top; $86

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Mr. Heater’s clever propane tank top automatically connects to its fuel source, saving you from having to bring any extra attachments with you on the road. With three heat settings that can get up to 45,000 BTU, the top can rotate 360 degrees to give you the perfect angle of heat you need to stay cozy. According to a reviewer, for a no-fuss outdoor heater, “This baby is super easy to light, comes fully assembled … and man, does it put out the heat.”

Buy it: Amazon

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5 TV Shows to Watch On Netflix If You Miss The Good Place

Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara in a scene from Schitt's Creek.
Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara in a scene from Schitt's Creek.
Pop TV

Though The Good Place capped off its four-season run in early 2020, it only recently became available to stream on Netflix. The series, which stars Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, and William Jackson Harper, is a philosophical comedy about a group of people who are selected to enter a Heaven-like utopia after their deaths. If you’ve finished the witty, heartwarming series and are wondering what to watch next time you open Netflix, look no further than these five shows.

1. Schitt’s Creek

Schitt’s Creek is certifiably entertaining—the show did, after all, set a record at the 2020 Emmy Awards, bagging a staggering nine awards. The series chronicles the lives of the uber-wealthy Rose family, who lose all of their money after being defrauded by their business manager. With no place left to turn, the Roses are forced to relocate to Schitt’s Creek, a little town they once purchased as a joke. Their personalities frequently clash with the town’s more humble residents, and the results couldn’t be funnier.

The sixth and final season of the series is coming to Netflix on October 7.

2. Grace and Frankie

If you want something as laugh-out-loud funny as The Good Place, give Grace and Frankie a try. The series stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as Grace and Frankie, respectively—two women who have never been fond of each other, but have been forced to interact over the years because their husbands are best friends and business partners. However, their lives are turned upside-down when their husbands (played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) announce that they are in love and leaving their wives in order to marry each other. Which forces Grace and Frankie to end up living together, and inevitably learn that friendship can come from the most unexpected places.

3. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend stars Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Bunch, a successful attorney at a well-respected law firm in New York. Even though it looks as if she has her life together, Rebecca is far from perfect. When a chance meeting with her ex-boyfriend Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) gives her a new lease on life, she decides to abandon her life in New York and move to Josh’s hometown of West Covina, California, in order to win him back.

4. Cuckoo

Cuckoo follows the lives of the Thompson family. When they pick their daughter Rachel (Tamla Kari) up at the airport, parents Ken (Greg Davies) and Lorna (Helen Baxendale) learn Rachel has married Dale “Cuckoo” Ashbrick (Andy Samberg), an unemployed American drifter with a penchant for drugs.

5. BoJack Horseman

This animated series is hilarious, deeply tragic, and surprisingly poignant. Even though the series is firmly rooted in fantasy, it manages to tackle tough subjects like depression, sexual assault, fame, and alcoholism with frightening realism. Similar to The Good Place, BoJack Horseman will have you laughing one minute and pondering the human condition the next.