June 19, 2024

Good things really do come to those who wait. Tapping into your patient side has its fair share of potential benefits for your physical and mental health, research suggests.

Patience May Make You More Agreeable

For starters, patient people are more likely to be agreeable, conscientious, and open to new experiences, according to a study published in 2018 in the journal Health, Spirituality and Medical Ethics. After studying 440 university students, the researchers suggest that patient people have higher levels of empathy, altruism, and discipline. (Also, the patient people were significantly less prone to negative emotions — more specifically, those linked to neuroticism.) With that combination in tow, it’s no surprise the researchers found patient people “act peacefully” and tend to struggle less with the people around them and the circumstances thrown their way.

Patience May Boost Self-Esteem and Sense of Self-Control (and Productivity as a Result)

Results from Schnitker’s lab connected patience with life satisfaction, self-esteem, and a sense of self-control that helped study participants be more productive and work towards achieving their goals.

In a sense, patience facilitates persistence, Schnitker says. In her research following study participants as they trudged along with their life goals, Schnitker learned patient people were more likely to keep putting effort into their goals weeks into the process and were more satisfied with the pursuit of their goals.

“You need grit and self-control to accomplish a goal. Sometimes you might not ever get there, but patience has you continue anyway,” Schnitker says.

Patience May Boost Resilience in the Face of Life Stressors and Anxiety

Meanwhile, Comer’s research pinpoints how crucial it is to be well-equipped with patience to navigate life’s choppy waters. A study from her group, published in 2014, found that patient people don’t need instant gratification, often deliberate carefully before decision-making, and are less likely to ruminate or have anxiety.

Patience May Ease Negative Mental Health Symptoms and Related Physical Ones (Like Headaches, Acne, and Diarrhea)

The less stressful life of a patient person pays off. According to other work from Schnitker, research has found that not only are patient people more cooperative, equitable and forgiving, but their calm demeanor meant they were less likely to report symptoms of depression, loneliness and other negative emotions, along with fewer health problems like headaches, acne flare-ups, ulcers, and diarrhea. (Though it’s worth noting that having to cope with a stressor like a chronic mental or physical illness, can also make it harder to practice patience, so the cause and effect likely goes both ways, as Sweeney pointed out.)

Impatience May Increase Risk of Heart and Sleep Problems

On the flipside, impatience can wreak havoc on your physical health. Research dating back to the 1980s linked impatience with overall irritability and a higher risk of heart problems while other findings suggest impatient people tend to have more physical complaints and sleep worse.

Ryan notes that anger and irritability can increase cortisol, the stress hormone, and adrenaline, which kicks in when you’re in dangerous situations. “The feelings of impatience can make your body feel like you’re being chased by a tiger and about to die. We shouldn’t tax our systems this much,” she says.

Impatience May Speed Up the Aging Process

A study published in 2016 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences warned higher levels of impatience are tied to shorter telomeres, which are part of our DNA. Bear in mind, telomeres get shorter in length as we age, with the research implying impatience may be accelerating the aging process in our bodies.


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