Rome was not built in a day and neither is your life. Instant gratification is the norm today. We get texts, emails, downloads in a split second but building a career, a relationship or running a marathon doesn’t happen that fast. It requires one key virtue; patience.
Especially if you’re the type of person who wants it fast and right now listen up because having patience will be extra helpful to ease the irritability that often comes up for you.
Philosophers and spiritual enthusiasts have long been calling patience a virtue. Now there is research to show just how beneficial it is.
- Improve our health. A study done at the University of Austin, Texas found that people who exhibit impatience and irritability tend to have more health complaints and worse sleep. Another study by Fuller Theological Seminary professor Sarah A. Schnitker and UC Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons found that patient people were less likely to have health problems like headaches, ulcers, acne, diarrhea, and pneumonia.
- Improve our mental health. That same study by Schnitker and Emmons found that patient people usually are less prone to depression and negative emotions. This is most likely because they can cope better with upsetting or stressful situations. They also consider themselves more mindful. They feel more gratitude, more connection to mankind and to the universe, and a greater sense of abundance. Who wouldn’t want to feel that?
- Help us achieve our goals. It takes consistent effort over time. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you live your life and get closer to your goals? One moment and step at a time. Taking a seemingly insufficient step forward can eventually lead you to the prize.
According to a 2012 study by Schitker patient people reported putting in more effort toward their goals than other people did. In particular, those with interpersonal patience (the type of patience that doesn’t involve waiting but rather simply facing annoying or frustrating people calmly and with a level head.) made more progress and were more satisfied when they achieved their goals compared with less patient people. The greater satisfaction with achieving their goals explained why the patient achievers were more content with their lives.
The keys to unlocking more patience
In another 2012 study, Schnitker invited 71 undergraduates to participate in two weeks of patience training. The training included the following steps:
- Learning to be aware and recognize feelings and what triggered them
- Controlling their emotions
- Cultivating empathy for others
The great news: in just two weeks, participants reported feeling more patient toward the challenging people in their lives, feeling less depressed, and experiencing higher levels of positive emotions. Patience is definitely something you can practice and improve upon.
Becoming more patient
Here is a simple exercise for you to get started on improving your patience that includes one step towards more patience – cultivating empathy. It is a meditation called Metta meditation a.k.a. loving-kindness meditation.
- Sit in a relaxed position and take a few deep breaths.
- Focus your attention on yourself with each breath. Think of loving thoughts about yourself – may I be happy, may I feel good, may I be safe.
- Next, focus your kind thoughts on another individual like a friend or family member. Think the same thoughts about them – may you be happy, may you feel good, may you be safe. (To really step it up a notch think of someone you dislike and try this meditation on them)
By all means, this takes practice, do not rush it or fake it. If you feel anger, resentment or any other negative feeling bubble up don’t worry. These are just signs that your heart is softening. Try directing the same loving thoughts to these feelings.
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