This piece on ‘Patience’ has been penned by Kathryn Corrigan, GROW Area Coordinator for Cavan/Monaghan.
Adapted from “The Benefits of being a Patient Person. Good things really do come to those who wait” Kira M. Newman 5-4-16 on www.mindful.org
“Having patience means being able to wait calmly in the face of frustration or adversity”
We can practice patience in our everyday lives, e.g. waiting for the kids to get out the door, queuing in the post office, waiting in traffic. In such situations, patience can be the difference between annoyance and acceptance, frustration and compassion, anxiety and calm.
Research is now beginning to show the benefits of patience:
- Patient people enjoy better mental health. If you think about it, this is common sense – whether you’re less patient because you are feeling anxious or depressed or your lack of patience leads to frustration and anger, patience, as they say, is a virtue. Think of yourself when you lose your patience; are you calm, compassionate, fair-minded and non-judgemental? Or do you start to rant, become restless and agitated and feel your blood pressure rising? A 2007 study showed that patient people tend to “experience less depression and negative emotions, perhaps because they cope better with upsetting or stressful emotions.”
In 2012, Schniker defined different types of patience; Interpersonal patience – the ability to face annoying people with equanimity – leads to being more hopeful and more satisfied with life. The patience involved in waiting out life’s hardships without frustration or despair is also linked to more hope. Finally, patience over daily hassles leads to being more satisfied with life, less depression and overall better mental health.
- Patient people are better friends and neighbours. In relationships with others, patience becomes a form of kindness. Studies show patient people are more co-operative, empathic, equitable and forgiving. Selflessness is associated with all three types of patience. Schniker and Emmons (2007) wrote that “Patience may enable individuals to tolerate flaws in others, therefore displaying more generosity, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness”
- Patience helps us achieve our goals. The road to achieving our goals can be a long one, so patience and perseverance can be required, giving us the will to put more effort into achieving our aims and thus leading to a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction that less patient people may never experience.
- Patience is linked to good health. Research has shown that people who are more impatient and irritable have more health complaints and worse sleep. Schniker and Emmons (2007) found patient people reported less headaches, acne, ulcers and diarrhoea, which can all be associated with stress. If patience can lessen our stress, then it can lessen the health impacts of stress as well.
So what to do if you are not a naturally patient person or have lost that ability over time? First reframe the situation. I found that I was often experiencing mild road rage when I was stuck behind a slow driver. Now I think of why they might be driving that way and how they might feel if the drivers behind are driving too close or showing their impatience. Could they be nervous, old, or been involved in an accident? How will my impatience further impact on them and me? The compassion that this reframing generates is a much nicer experience for me (and those travelling with me!) Impatience is not an automatic response and can be brought under our self-control. If we acknowledge our lack of patience and the thoughts and feelings underneath it, we can try to regulate our emotions and respond in a more compassionate way.
Secondly we can practice mindfulness. Taking a deep breath and noticing your feelings, can help you to respond in a different way, with more patience. Finally, practice gratitude. If we are thankful for what we have, we are less desperate and impatient for more stuff or better circumstances.
Frustration and adversity come with being human, how we respond is an important element of our mental health. Practicing patience in our everyday life can lead to more compassion, kindness and fulfilment. Why not start today?