Impatience is easy to spot. A honking car horn, an exasperated sigh behind you in the check-out line, the person that continues to press the elevator button after it‘s first been pushed. Patience, on the other hand, is not as evident. The athlete who allows a torn muscle to heal, a father reading an extra story at bedtime, a chef cooking food to perfection over low heat. While these examples are commendable, we don’t place a great deal of value on patience.
Patience isn’t just about allowing time to pass to reach a goal. For me, it’s about allowing time to pass in the face of frustration or obstacles, while keeping my heart and mind calm. It’s the difference between anxiety and tranquility, between anger and composure, between annoyance and understanding. Not a day goes by where patience isn’t needed. I’d argue that it’s a key ingredient to a happier life.
Science has started to back up our parents and grandparents‘ reminders to have patience. Studies now demonstrate that those who cultivate patience reap a number of benefits.
Better Overall Mental Health
In 2007, a study was conducted at UC Davis that revealed patient people experience less negativity and depression and rate themselves higher on gratitude and mindfulness scales. Several years later, some of those researchers went on to expand our understanding of exactly what patience is.
They identified three main types of patience. The first is simply facing the hassles of daily life with equanimity. The second involves moving through major challenges in life without feeling miserable or hopeless. Finally, patience means dealing with others in a compassionate way. Those who demonstrate these types of patience tend to be more satisfied with their lives and (not surprisingly) more hopeful.
When interacting with others, patience takes on a compassionate and kind demeanour. Think of the time that you were at your wit‘s end and someone let you go in front of them, or the time you laughed (again) at the joke that your uncle tells at every family occasion. Studies have shown that those who exhibit this interpersonal patience are more forgiving, empathic, and generally cooperative. It means integrating some amount of discomfort in order to benefit those around us.
Those who demonstrate higher levels of interpersonal patience also tend to be less lonely and more generous. When we can accept, and even lovingly embrace, a person’s quirks and barriers, there is less to struggle against in our relationships.
Though research in this area is still new and needs to be tested more thoroughly, early evidence suggests that patience is good for our health. Impatient people reported more health complaints and poorer sleep than did patient people in the same 2007 study above. Perhaps it’s simply the lack of stress that rewards patient people with greater health.
Patience … means being wholeheartedly engaged in the process that’s unfolding, rather than ripping open a budding flower or demanding a caterpillar hurry up and get that chrysalis stage over with. – Sharon Salzberg