I am not a patient person. I wait at a bus top and stare down the road, willing the bus to come. I jockey at the grocery store for the quickest line. Waiting for a computer to load is its own special agony. But as I get older, I am getting impatient with my impatience. I realize the benefits of tempering that impulsive energy, of learning to bide my time and to let things come. Thus I have seen: the more patient I am, the more things works out. Instead of taking glitches as the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, I see them as nudges from the universe to slow my roll.
Patience is defined as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay without getting angry or upset. A 2012 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology identified three distinct expressions of patience: interpersonal, life hardship and daily hassles. Interpersonal patience is dealing with someone who is upset, angry or being a pest with equanimity and poise. Life hardship means being able to overcome a serious setback. The aptly coined “daily hassles” refers to having the fortitude to deal with circumstances beyond your control, such as traffic, power outages and delays of all stripes, which is suppressing annoyance at delays or anything irritating that would inspire a snarky tweet.
One common theme of these different iterations can be found in the etymology of patience, which is to suffer. At the heart of patience is the capacity to be present with what is, whatever it is. Impatience is at best, an ineffective protest against reality.
Think of impatience as the fight in fight or flight. The brain gets riled up, objects to present situation and seeks to aggressively act out the impotent rage. Chalk it up to the amygdala, the almond-shaped set of nervous tissue in our brains is responsible for sussing out threats and regulating emotions. Typically, impatience is more overreaction than appropriate response. It blows up a merely irritating situation into a dire one.
So what are the benefits of stepping up one’s patience game? Turns out, patience is not just its own reward. It comes with a bevy of others, including a variety of positive health benefits. And the good news is that patience, like many skills, can be learned. What wires together fires together; states (over time) become traits. If you practice patience in small increments, like at the post office or at your computer, gradually you can build—and flex—your patience muscle.
Here are four health benefits that come to those who wait.
4 Benefits of Patience
Increased well being
The more patience you are, the happier you are. According to a 2007 study, patient people tend to experience less depression and negative emotions, perhaps because they better equipped to handle plans that go awry. The study notes that patient people also rate themselves as more mindful and feel more gratitude, more connection to mankind and to the universe, and a greater sense of abundance.
Patience can be more than the ability to delay gratification. It’s an invaluable tool for being in relationship. Patience, like they say, is a virtue. It becomes a moral matter, too. The priority is to make interpersonal interactions more agreeable. According to a study, patient individuals appreciate that their time is no more valuable than anyone else’s. Patience involves empathically assuming some personal discomfort to alleviate the suffering of those around us.
Although it seems counterintuitive, having patience can make you more productive, not less. The patience to recognize another person’s needs and point of view can facilitate relationships of all kind, including work, family and friends. It can also fuel creativity by being conducive to generating helpful and innovative ideas. The pressure to be more efficient can cause you to lose patience quickly. If you can stay on even keel during deadlines, you will find yourself getting more done. Whether you have one task to accomplish or many, the best way to produce is to not let the work overwhelm you. Studies have shown that patience boosts creativity, the quality of work, the ability to effectively collaborate and produce at an optimal level.
Impatience puts you on edge, and over time, brings you closer to clogged arteries. A host of bad outcomes travels in impatience’s wake—lashing out, curt emails, impulsive decisions, conflict with slowpokes moving too leisurely for your liking. All that simmering anger smolders away in your body and contributes to heart disease. Studies have shown that people who are more prone to anger are at higher risk for all heart disease events, including heart attack.
Delays, glitches, obstacles and disappointments are a large part of the territory that defines being human. Working with your patience capital, instead of leaning into self-righteous indignation, can make all the difference in the ease in which you navigate the path.