From the computer networks that run the
office through to the fast foods you enjoy at the end of the day, everything in
modern life seems to be speeding up. The faster we go, the less we seem to get
done, however, with urgency often leading to stress and anxiety. We all know
that patience is a virtue, and according to science, it may also be beneficial
for our physical and mental health. Having patience gives you the ability to
wait and heal, the time to stay cool and collected, and the personal space that
everyone needs for real health and well-being.
Numerous studies have highlighted the links
between the cultivation of patience and good physical and mental health
outcomes. According to 2007 and 2012 studies by Fuller Theological Seminary
professor Sarah A. Schnitker, patient people are less likely to experience
depression and other negative emotions. In her 2012 study, Schnitker invited 71
participants to undergo patience training, with people reporting less
depression and higher levels of positive emotions at the end of the study
Increased levels of patience throughout the
training also led to enhanced mindfulness, greater gratitude, more connection
to other people and the universe, and a greater sense of abundance.
Interestingly, patient people were also likely to exert more effort toward
their goals than people who did not identify as patient, with an increased
sense of accomplishment often leading to a greater level of personal
satisfaction. This sense of contentment can be catching, with a separate study
by Debra R. Comer and Leslie E. Sekerka finding that patient people were more
empathic, more agreeable, and more likely to display generosity and compassion
to friends and neighbours.
Patience can also be good for your physical
health, with the mind and body intricately connected in ways we are only
beginning to understand. The 2007 study by Schnitker and Emmons found that
patient people were less likely to report common physical health problems such
as headaches, acne, ulcers, diarrhoea, and pneumonia. Many of these conditions
are linked with psychological stress and poor sleeping patterns, with a patient
disposition possibly protecting us from the damaging effects of mental stress
and physical inflammation.
In a fascinating new study just published
in Nature Communications, serotonin may be at the root of patience. While the
neurotransmitter serotonin has always been a key focus in the treatment of
mental conditions such as depression, it's method of action has been unclear.
This study showed that serotonin actually increases patience, with mice more
likely to wait for food when they were given serotonin stimulation. While
mindfulness and meditation practices are often recommended to help people
increase patience in the busy modern world, paying attention to your serotonin
levels through diet and exercise modifications may also be beneficial.
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