How to Trick Your Brain Into Practicing Patience

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In an age when we can summon our favorite songs, movies, and TV shows with the press of a button, it’s hard not to suffer from impatience. But itching for instantaneous results is hardly a modern problem: In fact, it was hardwired during the evolution of the human brain.

Fast Company recently explored the roots of impatience, and according to them, the phenomenon is the result of two interacting mental systems. The first, which they dub the “go system,” controls drive and pushes us to achieve our goals. The second, the so-called “stop system,” keeps the first system in check: When your brain focuses on goals you can’t or don’t want to pursue at the current moment, this function works to dampen that sense of motivation. Unfortunately for the chronically impatient among us, the goal-driven part of our brains tends to be much stronger than the one meant to slow us down.

Fast Company suggests a few tips for dealing with impatient urges before they become overwhelming. One way to trick your brain into exercising patience is to put some distance between your thoughts and the object of your obsession. So if you find yourself eagerly waiting for a show to start, your meal to arrive, or your commute to be over, take the opportunity to practice mindful meditation. By focusing on your present surroundings without judgment, your impatience will hopefully melt away. On top of that, mindfulness has been shown to boost your attention span and increase tolerance for stress.

If quieting your thoughts proves to be too difficult in your most restless moments, Fast Company recommends choosing a distraction to keep yourself occupied. Finding another person to talk to is a quick way to reroute a one-track mind—a 1992 study found that people who interacted with others during a 10-minute wait were less stressed than those who didn’t socialize. If that isn’t an option for you, then it may help to come prepared the next time you expect impatience to strike. Be sure to pack something to read or buy a book of crossword puzzles. Technology can also be your friend in this case: Download hours worth of podcasts for when you're stuck in traffic, or devote yourself to earning a new high score in your favorite mobile game.

All that being said, feeling impatient every once in a while shouldn’t be seen as the end of the world. Not getting what you want the moment you want it is an unavoidable part of life, and the more practice you have experiencing impatience the better equipped you’ll be to deal with those unpleasant feelings in the future.

[h/t Fast Company]

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