Being patient is good for your health.

© Glow images. Model used for illustrative purposes.

© Glow images. Model used for illustrative purposes

Patience is a virtue – so the saying goes. But have you ever thought that being patient might be good for your health? Patience can lead to a well-balanced, successful life. It’s all a matter of finding out how to maintain this health-giving quality in the hurly burly of everyday life.

For many of us, being patient while juggling family, work and personal pressures, is quite a challenge.  Have you ever wondered why? David Shenk, author of The End of Patience, sheds some light on this. He says, “We’re packing more into our lives, and losing patience in the process. …We’ve managed to compress time to such an extent that we’re now painfully aware of every second that we wait for anything.”

I can identify with that. At my local bank and post office, I often stand in a long queue waiting to be served. It wasn’t always like that. I remember when there were more staff employed in these places.  Now, one certainly has to have patience.

Then there’s the technology we love and can’t live without. Mobile phones, Google, and Twitter. All of these drive our inability to wait.  Such ‘instant information’ seems to be available wherever we go. You can pedal at the gym and surf the web at the same time, keep entertained at the airport, and now one hotel chain in America even has news monitors installed in their lifts.

You’d think that such advances in technology, would mean more time for us to relax and do other things. Wrong! All this wizardry just seems to perpetuate our need to do things faster and faster. Because of this, we find that there’s no time to wait, think, connect to other people, or ‘stop and smell the roses’.  “The real danger”, according to Shenk, “is the potential vanishing of spirituality”. He thinks that, “It’s difficult to feel the richness of being alive when you’ve got these distracting electronic impulses [interrupting] your thoughts.”

Rachel Harris, PhD, author of 20-minute Retreats, echoes these thoughts. As a psychotherapist, she believes that we need to incorporate patience into our daily life for our emotional and spiritual maturity. The consequence of not doing so, she says, means “we are likely to suffer from anxiety and frustration.”  Having patience, according to Harris, “shifts our perspective, allowing us to open up to what is actually happening in the present moment”.

So how do we gain patience? For some people, staying calm and composed seems a breeze. But what about those of us who struggle to maintain our equilibrium – especially when our indispensable technology breaks down? While there are loads of suggestions from experts, including taking a deep breath, or going for a walk, one that I’ve found helpful is meditation or prayer.

Over the years, spiritual thinking has helped me develop the quality of equanimity – evenness of thought. When situations arise that threaten my peace of mind, having a spiritual base has helped me measure my reactions and responses – even when provoked.

Provocation can be tough to deal with. It’s so easy to react and lose patience. During a particularly difficult experience, a friend told me to ‘hang onto my goat’. Apparently the ‘goat she referred to, was a metaphor for my state of peacefulness. You keep your ‘goat’ when you stay patient, calm and collected. You lose your ‘goat’ when you let a person or thing annoy you to the point that you become impatient, upset or angry.

My friend’s mention of the ‘goat’ on that occasion, made me slow down, stop and think. Instead of reacting, I took a moment to prayerfully meditate. Right then, I reminded myself that a divine Power had created me to be cool and restrained. Self-control wasn’t beyond me. I had the ability to remain calm and get my thought back on track. And I did.

Having to approach frustrating situations in daily life with patience, seems to be part-and-parcel of modern living. When we master this powerful quality, or at least embrace it more fully, the spinoff is a better balanced mental state and attitude to life. This benefit to our thinking process, in turn leads to a healthier body. We‘re able to move through stressful and anxious times with poise, and find ourselves able to stay mentally and physically well.

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I'm a Melbourne based health writer who provides a perspective on the connection between spirituality, thought and health. As a keen blogger, my aim is to provide the public with a diversity of health content including research into the mind-body connection and how thought affects health.

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Comments

  1. Diane says

    This article is SO relevant to us all and clarifies this problem and the solution very well..so I have sent it to quite alot of my friends. Thanks Beverley. :-)

  2. Marilyn says

    So many spiritual qualities are good for our health – gratitude and forgiveness come to mind – and being reminded that patience is another one to cultivate for our emotional and physical well-being, is so helpful! Thank you.

    • says

      Thank you Marilyn for your comment. Patience makes our daily interaction with others happy and constructive, while promoting good health. As you say, it’s definitely a quality to cultivate.

  3. Kerrie Gasteen says

    Yes, as soon as I pull back from pressing the self-willed or indignant button, and press the patience button, all goes well for me and the situation I find myself in. It works every time. Thank you for this wonderful article. Very informative.

    • says

      Glad you liked this post Kerrie. Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased to know that you are achieving good results from remaining patient in stressful situations. Good job.

  4. Yvonne says

    This is a great blog Beverly. I can relate to so many of your situations requiring patience, queues at banks and especially long red light changes and railway crossings with gates closed for endless trains! I start off with good intentions but find I get off my goat as you put it. I love the way you prayed by declaring that “a Divine presence created me to be calm”.how much better is this approach than reacting. I always find your blogs very helpful Beverly. Thank you. Yvonne

    • says

      Good to have your comment Yvonne. Yes often we start out with good intentions to be patient and then find ourselves reacting to being delayed by something or someone. It takes practice to stay calm, but we can do it. We have a divine Helper who gives us the ability to move through frustrating moments with poise and grace.

  5. John says

    Great article on patience! It got me thinking about how I keep my “centre”. Keeping our goat, centre, calm, cool, or whatever word you call it, is very important for good health and wellbeing. There’s one time slot during my week when I’m quite challenged. It’s when my Life Drawing Group packs up the equipment we all use to make way for the next group to use our space. We’ve only a limited time to do this and the participants are always helpful. I’ve had to overcome an unrealistic sense of personal responsibility. I’m learning to slow down and hold to a favourite Bible verse, –“The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.” I then allow myself to relax and breath slowly. I’m getting better at leaving the studio in a less rushed state. There is quite enough time, and the change-over group now wait patiently outside. I’ve been knowing that they can express patience. ( Life drawing groups have a lot more time to clean up, than water colour groups need to set up. This is generally recognized by my fellow tutors.) I may arrive at our group lunch a little late, as I have other duties before I leave. But I’m becoming more patient with myself. Thanks for this week’s article.

  6. says

    Well done John on practicing patience at your drawing classes. It’s easy to feel pressured when others are waiting for us to do something. Yet taking a moment to think from a spiritual basis results in calmness and order. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Peter says

    Your blog re patience rang a chord with me. It was also timely as I had been reading a Jehovah’s Witness magazine ‘Awake’ (Dec 2012) delivered to my door and it featured an article ‘Whatever Happened to Patience?’ I have often become frustrated and impatient when something is not going my way. I have found a useful solution in the Biblical statement from Psalms ‘Be still and know I am God’. For example, many a time I have been struggling with trying to fit a hidden nut on a bolt, to no avail. By just stepping back from the situation and letting calmness sink into my thought the nut usually slips on correctly. It sure beats getting uptight which only seems to make the problem worse. Spirituality is a natural antidote to impatience in my experience.

    • says

      Thank you Peter for your comment. Getting thought “still” is great way to achieve patience and calm. It also helps get a job done quickly and simply as you’ve found. Thanks for sharing. It was good to hear from you.

  8. Anthony {Tony} Thomas says

    Speaking of goats!!….. Which goat do you want to be guided by or a. copy of? Great Big Billygoat Gruff or Nannygoat? Billygoat gets upset, stamps his foot and looses patience. Nannygoat is just like a nanny. She never gets upset, impatient or careless. She takes care and sets children up and is patience personified. Nanny reflects her maker, divine Life, Love,Truth and Spirit. The goat that is always at work and can never be taken away or hidden. She is always our companion.

  9. Keziah says

    Thank you Beverly for sharing your article on patience with us all.
    Patience can be a challenge of that there is no doubt. There is a book on spiritual healing and well being that I read each day and in this book a particular sentence, “Reason is the most active human faculty” is always a great help to me. In times of impatience and struggle this sentence makes me take a backward step and to try to reason my way through the challenge. I have to admit that I don’t always succeed, mostly it works.

    • says

      Great to have your comment. Just loved that sentence from the book you read. Would the book happen to be Science and Health by any chance? Reasoning, before reacting, sounds like a good plan. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Pauline Rita Noorts says

    Grateful always to be reminded about patience and to read about others take on this most helpful quality, many thanks Beverly.

    • says

      Good to know Pauline that you liked the blog and the comments posted by others. This is a great medium for sharing helpful ideas and experiences. Thanks for saying so.

  11. Simon D says

    Mmm…thanks for this one Beverly…I already knew this BUT I seem to have recently forgotten it. I currently have a neighbour problem that needs attention, not reaction. Thanks for the kick in the pants!

  12. says

    Thank you Simon for your comment. Getting along with neighbours can be tricky at times. Hanging on to your ‘goat’ and not reacting does however lead to harmony and peace. It takes patience and prayer, but the results are worth it.