I have always struggled with patience. This makes perfect sense considering we live in such a “now” age, where waiting is considered a hassle or inconvenience. Patience, however, is absolutely essential for living a positive and present life. When we don’t practice patience, it usually means we are rushing through our moments and days with little regard for being mindful. In order to help guide myself and others who struggle with practicing patience, I’ve spent some time thinking up some pointers.

It really helps to think about why you’re impatient. Oftentimes we exhibit impatience and somewhere in our minds we assume it’s because there’s a lack of time to wait. Take the time to really ask yourself, though: do I actually not have time or is something else at play? Is it because you’re bored and want to leave a situation? Is it because you’re in a hurry and you really have to be somewhere? Is it because you want to get home because you’re tired / don’t feel well / are hungry?

Knowing the reasons behind your impatience can be extremely helpful because, in some cases, you can fix the issue. Perhaps it’s not a lack of time, but a lack of interest. Can you cut that task out of your day? If not, is there a way to make it more interesting? You won’t always be able to directly address the reason for your impatience, but sometimes just the act of acknowledging why it’s happening can help you be calm.

Having an idea of the people and situations that particularly test your patience can be very helpful for learning to practice patience. When you know where, when, and with whom you feel the most impatient, you can either (1) avoid these situations and people as much as possible or (2) prepare yourself for them by bringing along things that will help you stay present and patient. Unfortunately most patience-trying situations aren’t avoidable, but it’s usually possible to prepare for them, both physically and mentally. If you know you’re going to be in a situation that will cause you to be impatient, bring something with you that will help you stay calm or mentally prepare for the situation by reviewing these patience pointers.

Being impatient is partly the result of being too focused on the present moment in an unhealthy way. It is important to be present, but not obsess over the present moment. When you’re in the moment and you’re intensely focused on what you want right now, you might lose sight of what’s really important. When you find yourself having difficulty staying patient, ask yourself, “Will this matter a year from now?” Most of the time it won’t. And even if you think it will, follow up with the question, “What really matters most to me?” When you consider this question, you help yourself put the situation into perspective.

One of patience’s greatest enemies is worry, and that’s often what you’ll find yourself doing if you have time to waste. Instead of ruminating on what could happen or what else you could be doing with time spent waiting, it’s more useful to use that waiting time with engaging distractions. If you’re with others who are also having their patience tried, consider playing a game or conversing about an interesting topic. If you’re solo, you might want to dive into a good book or spend a few minutes on your favorite website. The most important layer to this suggestion is that you should always be prepared with such tools for combating impatience and worry before you are ever in that position. Carry a book with you always, or download an APP on your phone that you could pull out at any time. Distracting yourself for a long period of time may not be an option, but even a few moments spent disengaging from impatience can be beneficial.

The trickiest thing about practicing patience is finding a balance between not being in the moment (where you’re worrying about what was or what could be) and being too in the moment (where you’re so focused on the challenging situation that you don’t put it in perspective). One of the best ways to stay just the right amount of present is getting in touch with your five senses by paying close attention to what you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. When you do this, you bring yourself back to the moment and away from impatient thoughts, but you don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the irritations that might come with the present moment.

Patience can be strengthened, just like muscles, by practicing. Instead of waiting until your patience is tried, give yourself a chance to practice when you don’t really need to. For example, get in a longer line at the grocery store and practice waiting for someone to pay for a million things. Arrive early to an event with a book, or use those moments to collect your thoughts. The more you train yourself to be patient in everyday situations, the easier it will be to keep yourself calm when you’re in a situation that’s out of your control. Finally, practice patience by slowing down. Walk slower. Eat slower. Talk slower. Eventually, these extra moments may be the ones that you actually look forward to!