Most of us grew up with our mothers telling us that patience is a virtue, though we may not have really understood what that meant. As we grew older, we learned that developing the ability to be patient is a necessity in almost everything we do. From driving to work to going to the dentist, the ability to wait calmly and courteously is essential. As it turns out, it’s also essential to our overall well being. Recent studies have found that a patient demeanor is linked to a variety of mental, emotional, and physical benefits.
Patience is Linked to Healthier Minds
In 2007, Sarah A. Schnitker, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, joined with Robert Emmons, who is a professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis, to study the mental health benefits of a patient demeanor. Unsurprisingly, they found that people who exhibit patience were also less likely to suffer from depression or to experience other negative emotions. The study indicated that this healthier mindset is due to a more well-developed ability to cope with the stress of frustrating situations. Instead of focusing on the negative, these individuals are more mindful of others sharing that situation.
Emmons and Schnitker also found that people who are naturally patient are usually more aware of the world around them. They tend to feel a connection to others and to their environment, which leads them to feel grateful for whatever abundances they have in their lives.
In a follow-up study, Ms. Schnitker wanted to look deeper at the different types of patience and how these characteristics affected one’s general outlook. First, she studied interpersonal patience, which involves the ability to tolerate annoying behaviors with politeness and compassion. The research involved examining 400 undergraduate students. Among the subjects, Ms. Schnitker discovered that those with an ability to be more accepting of others also felt more positively about their own lives. These individuals tend to appreciate their accomplishments more and have more hope for their futures.
Another type of patience analyzed in the study was the type of brave patience, which is often needed to cope with extremely stressful life events. For instance, an unemployed person’s ability to continue looking for work without feeling defeated or despaired. In these subjects, the research found that people who can maintain a sense of brave patience are able to hold onto hope for a better future.
The final type of patience examined by the Fuller Theological Seminary instructor had to do with one’s ability to daily frustrations. Sitting in traffic jams, waiting for an appointment, and standing in line at the store or bank are examples in this category. Ms. Schnitker found that people possessing this type of patience have an overall stronger state of mental health. They view life more positively and rarely exhibit the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Patience Helps Us Be More Sociable
An impatient person can be spotted in an instant. This is the individual with the red face, throbbing forehead, and clenched fists. This is also the person raising their voice to berate a waitress, cashier, or receptionist. Their inability to tolerate stressful situations doesn’t just affect their mental health; it also inhibits their ability to forge healthy relationships. When others observe this type of behavior, they become more wary of that individual and may even go out of their way to avoid an interaction with them.
Conversely, people who are patient and try to be pleasant in frustrating situations tend to attract favorable attention. These individuals are more approachable, encouraging others to seek out social interactions with them. Patient individuals exhibit an ability to tolerate or even accept flaws in the behaviors of others, which is something people can sense. Possessing natural patience is also linked to compassion and empathy, traits that encourage people to contribute to charitable causes and to help those who are in need.
Each of these traits helps to expose patient persons to more social experiences. As they participate in more socializing, their outlook on life brightens, and they feel even more optimistic about the future. We know that socialization is vital to a healthy mind, so this is one more way that developing a sense of patience is beneficial to the mind and spirit.
Patience and Physical Health
In the original 2007 study, professors Emmons and Schnitker also found that individuals with impatient temperaments were at a greater risk of developing physical ailments. Those with a strong ability to remain, patient, also reported experiencing fewer instances of ulcers, pneumonia, acne breakouts, headaches, and diarrhea. At the opposite end of the spectrum, type A personalities, those who are more irritable and less patient, reported physical ailments more commonly. They also experienced more sleep disorders.
We already know that stress contributes to the development of physical conditions, including heart disease. If possessing a patient temperament helps to reduce stress and anxiety, it stands to reason that the risks to one’s physical health can also be reduced. Patient people are also better able to keep to schedules and generally don’t run late. They are also better at keeping their goals because they are more aware of how much time things take and how to effectively plan out the future. They also tend to have better memories because they aren’t constantly rushing around from one thing to another, so they don’t usually miss taking medications, locking their doors, and other basic things people tend to forget every day. While some people may have to work at developing a more patient demeanor, the benefits are well worth the effort. After all, letting go of anything, even anger, requires patience.
Many people have to work at being more patient, and that usually involves retraining the way you think. When you’re in a stressful situation, you may have to make a conscious effort to change how you approach the situation. When you feel yourself getting angry that someone is running late, look for something to occupy your mind. Now that most people have smartphones, you can spend those 15 minutes playing a game, reading a book, or browsing your favorite social media site.
This can also require being more mindful of your own thoughts. Instead of letting your anger get out of hand, turn your thoughts inward and analyze why you feel so agitated. The ability to recognize the cause of your frustration can help you to control it better. Take a deep breath and try to devise a more patient response to the situation.
Training yourself to be more grateful and more insightful can help you develop a stronger sense of patience. In addition to helping you enjoy the benefits listed here, reacting with a more patient demeanor can also help you live a happier life. The ability to remain patient will make you more sociable and open up new possibilities, leading to a brighter and healthier future.
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