Lifestyle

Published March 26, 2024

Impatience: It could kill you but you don't have to let it

"An episode of explosive anger, stress or impatience can increase risk of heart attack and sudden death by two to eightfold for the next few hours"
Impatience while driving

Imagine you're stuck in rush hour traffic, a sea of brake lights before you. Your pulse quickens, frustration builds, and you tap your hand impatiently on the wheel. Impatience is building. Maybe you yell at everyone around you for being needlessly slow. This is a common experience in our fast-paced world, where instant gratification is the norm and waiting can feel like an enemy.

The problem is, this constant state of "hurry up" can have a negative impact on our well-being .... it may even kill you.

Sounds dramatic, doesn't it?

But according to Dr. Amit Sood, founder of the Mayo Clinic Resilient Mind program and a leader in resilience and well-being, "An episode of explosive anger, stress or impatience can increase your risk of heart attack and sudden death by two to eightfold for the next few hours." It can even have a long-term effect on your DNA.

Before we dive into that, let's start by looking at why we're so impatient ...

What Is Impatience?

Impatience is the inability to tolerate waiting or delay. It's the feeling of frustration or annoyance that arises when things aren't happening as quickly as you'd like them to.

Impatience can be a simple feeling of restlessness, like tapping your foot while waiting in line. But it can also escalate to more intense emotions like anger or outbursts.

And that is when it becomes a problem ...

How Does Impatience Affect Us?

Chronic impatience can have a significant impact on our well-being.

Studies have linked it to increased stress, anxiety, and even physical health problems. Stress hormones like cortisol can weaken the immune system, making us more susceptible to illness.

Impatience can also manifest as irritability, straining relationships with loved ones. Imagine snapping at your partner because the internet seems slow – a situation easily avoided with a little patience.

At it's worse, it can even lead to earlier death.

Sood explains, "If we were to take your blood sample and measure your… telomeres, which are at the end of chromosomes, the shorter they are, the smaller they are, the older you are. And people who are impatient have shorter telomeres."

Why We Don't Want To Wait

Our fast-paced culture conditions us to expect immediate results. Social media feeds bombard us with curated highlights, creating an illusion that everyone else's life is effortlessly perfect. The fear of missing out (FOMO) fuels this impatience, making us anxious about being left behind.

But, as Sood explains it, the cause may run deeper. He believes that people are "designed to be impatient."

"When little babies are born, they don't just wait for you to clean their diapers, you know? They cry." But this primal urge to have things happen instantly can be detrimental.

In a study, people were given the option to sit alone and be bored or give themselves a painful electric shock. According to Sood, "About 70% of men chose to give themselves painful electric shocks."

The Benefits Of Slowing Down

The benefits of patience extend far beyond avoiding negative consequences. Patience allows for better decision-making. When we slow down and consider all options carefully, we're less likely to make rash choices we later regret.

Patience also fosters creativity. Rushing through tasks can hinder our ability to think outside the box. By allowing ourselves time and space, we can unlock new ideas and approaches.

Perhaps the most significant benefit of patience is its association with long-term success. Delayed gratification, the ability to wait for a bigger reward, is a crucial skill for achieving goals. Whether it's saving for a dream vacation or diligently studying for an exam, patience allows us to stay focused on the long game.

How To Become More Patient

The good news is that patience is a skill that can be learned and strengthened. Here are some tips to help you become more patient:

  1. Identify your triggers: What situations make you most impatient? Knowing your triggers can help you develop coping mechanisms.
  2. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques like deep breathing and meditation can help you stay calm and present in the moment, reducing frustration with waiting. If you need a more visual distraction, go for a walk somewhere new and focus your attention on the nature surrounding you.
  3. Reframe your thinking: Instead of viewing waiting as wasted time, see it as an opportunity to relax, read, or simply observe your surroundings.
  4. Focus on the long term: Remind yourself that good things often take time. Rushing through a project might lead to mistakes, while taking your time can lead to better results.
  5. Celebrate small wins: Acknowledge your progress in becoming more patient. Every time you manage to wait calmly, it's a victory worth celebrating, even if it was only a few moments.

RELATED: Forest bathing can be a great way to slow down and enjoy the moment ...

Patience isn't about passively accepting everything. It's about taking control of your response to situations beyond your control.

After all, slowing down can sometimes be the fastest way to reach your goals. By making patience a conscious choice, you can cultivate a sense of inner peace, improve your health, and strengthen your relationships.

So, the next time you feel the urge to rush, take a deep breath and embrace the power of patience.

And remember ...

"If you choose to be patient, you are helping yourself. You're living longer and happier. And you're helping your loved ones. Being patient is a choice."

— Amit Sood
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