By Jeremy Godwin
Welcome to Let’s Talk About Mental Health, the weekly podcast full of simple ideas for better mental health by Jeremy Godwin. Each episode focuses on practical and simple things that you can do every single day to improve and maintain your mental health and wellbeing, based on quality research.
This is Episode 64 and this week I’m talking about patience. I’ll be discussing what patience is, why it matters for good mental health and wellbeing, and how to incorporate greater patience into everything you do. So, let’s talk about mental health!
Listen to the podcast episode now in the Spotify player below (or using your preferred podcast service; see below for links) or continue reading for the article/transcript version.
Watch this week’s episode of Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV, focused on building mental and emotional strength:
This episode was originally released on 1 February, 2021.
Hello and welcome to Episode 64, and thanks so much for joining me! This year is ‘The Year of Wellbeing’ here on the Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast… because wellbeing doesn’t just happen; it takes work. So each week on the podcast I’ll be continuing to share simple ideas for better mental health and practical advice for improving your overall wellbeing, by exploring lots of different things you can do every day to make a positive difference in your life.
This week is all about patience, which given the fact that we’ve been stuck in a loop for about a year now thanks to that unwanted houseguest that just won’t leave and insists on sucking all the fun out of the air, Uncle Rona, it kind-of seemed appropriate that I should talk about ‘patience’ this week and how it fits in with wellbeing. It’s also quite timely because, if you’re into astrology, we’re now knee-deep in Mercury Retrograde which means an extra-large helping of patience will very likely be needed over the coming weeks!
Before we jump into this week’s content, a quick word about the latest episode of Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV which is out now on YouTube. In Episode 2 I’m talking about simple ideas for consciously building greater mental and emotional strength and, in doing so, dealing with your worries and fears. I’ve made a couple of changes to my approach on YouTube: first, the main weekly show will focus a lot more on one specific topic (so in that respect it’s a bit more similar to this podcast, although I’ll also be sharing stuff I find interesting or that’s relevant in the world as and when it happens, so it’s still a bit broader in focus than what I do here), and then the second piece is that I used to post the full audio-only version of the podcast to YouTube which was kind-of a waste of time because it got about 12 listens… so starting with this episode I will now be doing a mini-version each week that shares five of my how-to tips from this main episode, then viewers can listen to the full podcast episode if they would like to dig deeper. That how-to episode will be released every Sunday, and the main Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV episode will be released on Wednesday (if you’re in Australia or the Asia-Pacific region it will be in the evening; for the rest of the world it will be during the day). That means this podcast will now be coming out on Sunday so you’ll see it available a few hours earlier than you used to… because frankly I was spending WAY too long at the end of each episode telling you when the next one will be, so now I can just say a date and be done with it so you can get on with your day!
So, now, on with this week’s episode about patience…
Back in 1985, the great Stevie Nicks sang, “How will we feel 20 years from now… Well, I can’t wait, I can’t wait…” and I’m not sure if anyone went back and checked with Stevie in 2005 to see how she was feeling but the point is that it can be really easy to get caught up in impatient excitement or just a general desire for things to move forward, and if the past year has taught us anything it’s that all good things come to those who wait… and wait… and wait some more.
Now, I’m not 100% sure how I know that Stevie Nicks song so well, considering I wasn’t born until 1996 (which is an outright lie, since that would shave 20 years off my age and now that you’ve seen me on YouTube, nobody is going to buy that story…), but I can say with absolute certainty that throughout my late 30’s and early 40’s I’ve come to learn the value of cultivating greater patience. Now, do I get it right all the time? No! Just ask my partner, who has to put up with my limited patience levels on a daily basis (yet for some strange reason is still around after all these years), and in fact in a moment I’ll talk a bit more about why this whole ‘patience’ thing is actually one of my biggest challenges in life. First, let’s get some definitions happening…
What is patience?
The formal definition is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious” (credit to the Oxford Dictionary there, via Apple). I think that definition is a great starting point for this episode, because if we talk about delays, problems and suffering we’re certainly talking about a lot of the stuff that can have a huge impact on our wellbeing — including, but not limited to, all of the various impacts associated with the current ongoing global pandemic. Now I know that some people are sick of hearing about a particular word that rhymes with MOVID, but I don’t believe in skirting around the tough conversations in this podcast; in fact, what I do, both here and in my work as a coach and mental health consultant, is that I challenge people to confront the truth, because only then can we hope to find a way forward that doesn’t see us going around in circles.
Patience is a huge part of your mindset (which I explored in Episode 31), and many of us just don’t like to wait for things. Part of that comes back to this instant-gratification society that we’ve cultivated over the past couple of decades, where we’ve made it faster and faster to get things and so that’s had a negative effect on our willingness to be patient (I mean let’s be honest here, when you can order stuff and have it delivered to your house in a day or two, how patient can we be expected to be when some things take weeks or even longer to arrive?).
Having little or no patience can often make us feel anxious, because when we want something to happen without being willing to wait every now and then, what we do is make ourselves frustrated when we are made to wait for something… which will inevitably happen to every single one of us at one point or another on most days of our lives.
Being impatient can also be risky; think about changing lanes in traffic at high speed, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has taken a chance or two so that I could overtake someone who was sitting way below the speed limit (just on a side note there: has anyone seen that meme that was going around a few months ago pointing out that it’s funny how each of us thinks we’re the only ones on the entire road who are Goldilocks drivers — not too fast, not too slow — and everyone else should learn from our example… and if you did, then how accurate do you think that was? Because I’ll admit I think that sometimes!). Anyway…
I’m going to quote from an excellent article in the New York Times about patience; the link will be in the transcript, however you may have to sign up for a free account to read it (you get so many free articles a month and I like the quality of their journalism so that’s why I’m sharing it here). Anyway, the piece is:
“A 2012 study… identified three distinct expressions of patience: 1. Interpersonal, which is maintaining calm when dealing with someone who is upset, angry or being a pest. 2. Life hardships, or finding the silver lining after a serious setback. And 3. Daily hassles, which is suppressing annoyance at delays or anything irritating… The good news is that same study found that patience as a personality trait is modifiable. Even if you’re not a particularly patient person today, there’s still hope you can be a more patient person tomorrow.”Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/05/smarter-living/how-to-be-a-more-patient-person.html
So that leads nicely into the next part which is…
Why does patience matter for good mental health?
And again I’m going to quote from the New York Times here. The quote is:
“Patience, [being] the ability to keep calm in the face of disappointment, distress or suffering, is worth cultivating. [It] is associated with a variety of positive health outcomes, such as reducing depression and other negative emotions. Researchers have also concluded that patient people exhibit more prosocial behaviors like empathy, and were more likely to display generosity and compassion.”Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/05/smarter-living/how-to-be-a-more-patient-person.html
So, I talk a lot in this podcast about how doing no harm, being kind and giving more than you take can serve as the most effective foundations of your wellbeing, and those three things go hand-in-hand with patience, both with yourself and with other people. When you consciously cultivate greater patience in your life, you are choosing to be more self-aware (which I discussed in Episode 62) and it’s also a part of mindfulness (the subject of Episode 42).
I think it’s worth picking up on that earlier note in the New York Times article about patience being something that you can modify, and I’d like to take a couple of minutes to share a little about what helped to put me on the path of wanting to improve my patience (something that I am very much still working on and which continues to be a daily struggle, if I’m being very honest).
One of the things I struggle with the most is impatience and being able to hit the pause button so that I don’t just react in a cranky way (which I do not always manage to achieve). But the thing is that, like most people, I’m much more than that one challenging aspect of my default personality — I’m also kind and caring and generous and I have a slightly weird sense of humour etc. — but also I am fortunate to be self-aware of my less-than-ideal qualities and the other thing is that I am committed to working on ways to better myself every day, rather than just putting my hands up in the air and saying ‘well that’s just how I am!’ without taking any responsibility for my words and actions.
What really inspired me to start working on myself in terms of slowly addressing my issues with being impatient was something that happened about 8 or 9 years ago; I was visiting one of my aunts and she, like me, is quick to crankiness when she’s annoyed, and near her front door she had written herself a sticky note using big letters that said, “Don’t get mad!” so she would see it every time she walked out the door. Now, I know that it was probably there mostly as a reminder for when she was going to see my mother (who tends to trigger me as well — I take responsibility for my own words and actions, but that woman most definitely knows how to trigger people for sport and she does it A LOT)… but anyway my point is that it stopped me in my tracks and I actually asked my Aunt about it, and she told me she had decided she wanted to do something about it because she didn’t like being that person. At the time she was in her early 60’s (she’s 70 now) and it just made me think, “It really is never too late to keep on improving yourself!” so it inspired me to start focusing on being less cranky and more patient. That’s a task that’s going to take a lot more effort and it most definitely takes daily work (and being humble enough to admit when you mess up along the way), but I think that a huge part of self-awareness is turning the ‘awareness’ bit into actual action; you can be aware that you’re an arsehole sometimes, but that awareness means nothing if you don’t do anything to improve so you’re a little bit less of an arsehole every day.
That’s the thing with personal qualities, like impatience, that we may not be particularly proud of: nobody is perfect, and so I really do think it’s more about being self-aware (again, which I explored in Episode 62) and then committing to actually doing things to improve so that you can be the best version of yourself possible. And how do you do that? Well, let’s get into the how-to part of this week’s episode…
How to be more patient
Make the choice to be patient — Sorry to be boring here but patience, like all of your mindset, is a choice; nobody is making you impatient but you. You’re responsible for your own words, actions and feelings (especially what you do with your feelings) so if you find yourself feeling impatient or struggling to remain patient then be aware of what’s happening. When you’re confronted by a challenging situation, often our instincts take over — there’s a part of our brain called the amygdala which are two little almond-shaped clusters that form part of our limbic system, and they’ve been demonstrated to have a primary role in our decision-making and memory, along with our emotional responses. They’re thought to be the home of our fight/flight/freeze response (which is where our instincts take over when we’re in danger and we either fight, take flight — i.e. Run away — or freeze up entirely). We may have far fewer instances of being in life-threatening situations today (I mean, most of us aren’t being chased by hungry lions) but our brains still try to protect us from perceived threats, and so often when we feel impatient it’s actually a form of anger or fear that’s manifesting. If we just react to it and go with our instincts, we’re setting ourselves up for difficulties; whereas if we choose to pause for 5-10 seconds then we can get past the initial emotional reaction and understand why we might be feeling that way or why it’s happening, and then you can respond in a much more thoughtful way. For the sake of just 10 seconds you can save yourself a lot of trouble in the future! I talked about mindset in Episode 31 and choice in Episode 50, so check those out for more self-development ideas related to those topics.
If you’re really struggling to do that… pause and think about the consequences of being impatient — if you yell at someone or cause a ruckus, you’re going to have to deal with the consequences… and life is far more pleasant when we don’t have to spend half of it with a mop and bucket cleaning up our own messes. Again, the point here is to pause and reflect so you’re not just being hijacked by your emotions… this allows you the time and space to respond thoughtfully rather than just reacting emotionally.
Focus on what is within your control — as I said before, you have direct control over your own words, actions and feelings… and that’s pretty much all you can directly control. You can fight that basic truth (which will cause you frustration when dealing with other people) or you can accept it and find greater peace. Check out Episode 48 for more about control.
Consider your priorities — it’s so easy to get caught up in the little day-to-day things that happen in our lives, but let’s be blunt here: most of the stuff we experience every day won’t matter in five weeks, let alone five years… so every day, take a few moments to remind yourself of your top 3-5 priorities that you’re working towards and then when the inevitable shit hits the fan or something happens to make you feel impatient, stop and ask yourself how relevant the situation is to what really matters in your life; if it isn’t related to your priorities then let it go, and if it is related to your priorities then take a break from it so you can then come back to it in a calmer and more thoughtful way. Check out Episode 3 for more about priorities.
Lean into whatever is blocking you — you know how we so often feel like we don’t have a moment to ourselves? When something happens to slow you down (like picking the wrong queue at the supermarket or hitting heavy traffic when you’re already in a rush), consider that a message telling you loudly and clearly that it’s time to breathe and take a micro-break… since you cannot control external events or other people (no matter how much you might try), all you can really do is lean into the situation and accept it with grace, dignity and calm.
Do things that make you feel uncomfortable or impatient — put your phone away when you’re stuck in a queue and just be for a few minutes. Let other drivers in when you’re stuck in traffic, and if someone is doing just slightly under the speed limit then force yourself for a few minutes to stay behind them instead of overtaking. Pick a lane at the supermarket and stick to it, regardless of how slow it moves. Use the ad breaks to close your eyes and take a few moments to sit quietly (although you might have to hit the mute button for that one, since most ads tend to be louder than the show even though most TV networks claim that’s not the case… I think we all know that is the case!). When you do these things even when they make you feel uncomfortable, they remind you that it’s OK to just ‘be’ and that you can create a greater sense of calm by accepting those things that are outside of your control (while also being kind at the same time). I talked about acceptance back in Episode 36, so you may find that useful.
Have fun, especially when it comes to doing difficult things — my favourite thing to do is to put music on and sing my heart out (even if it’s off-key) while I clean or do some work on the house, and with those jobs I have learned the hard way (especially with DIY) that it will inevitably take five times longer than you think it will, and will be way more complicated than you initially expect. It is what it is. There’s no point screaming at the wall because every single type of screw you try either won’t stay in or won’t go in at all, and so you can either stress over it or you can just have fun, which makes life a lot easier.
Put things into context — you might be struggling with impatience now, but are you really going to remember this situation in five days? Five weeks? Five years? Most things really aren’t that big of a deal; we just make them into a big deal because our minds are overly-dramatic and prone to a bit of hysteria. If it doesn’t matter as part of your priorities or in terms of the big picture of life, let it go. You might also find Episode 3 about priorities and Episode 32 about letting go to be helpful here.
If you’re really struggling to be patient, remind yourself of the longer-term costs associated with being impatient — further to my earlier point about consequences, there are longer-term impacts of being impatient that can have a negative effect on your life and other people. When you blow up at people, whether they’re loved ones or total strangers, you make things way more complicated than they need to be (and if you listened to last week’s show, Episode 63, you’ll know that simplicity is one of the most important aspects of improving and maintaining your wellbeing… because the less drama you need to deal with, the better). I know some people can be triggering, but you’re in control of what you do, say and feel… so instead of just reacting, pause and reflect then remind yourself that being impatient often provokes arguments, and so instead choose to just simmer down a bit so that you can respond in a calmer and more thoughtful manner. It will help to improve your relationships both at home and at work. I said it before and I’ll say it again: nobody is perfect, but you can certainly become a better version of yourself if you just focus on making those small choices every day… because little improvements add up over time to make really big differences.
Get support — if you’ve tried everything I’ve just talked about and you’re not getting anywhere, work with a counsellor or therapist; you may even find it useful to work with an anger management specialist. There is absolutely no shame in getting help to address issues and in fact it’s something that I think should be celebrated more, because not enough people are willing to be humble enough to admit that they need support in order to work on improving themselves… so I think that every single person who chooses to work with a professional support person deserves to be applauded for taking those steps towards becoming a better version of themselves. You wouldn’t try to treat a serious physical injury on your own, so why would you do so with some aspect of your mental health that might be proving difficult to address? Get help, because you definitely do not have to go through challenging situations alone.
Summary and Close-Out
Because when it comes to patience and mental health, what it all boils down to is this: we might want to always have what we want when we want it or want to not find ourselves in positions where other people do things that irritate us, but we can’t always have what we want because so much of life is outside of our direct control. When you choose to be more patient, you’re making a conscious decision to be more thoughtful in your words, actions and feelings… which leads to more positive and constructive relationships with other people and a better relationship with yourself. If you find yourself feeling impatient, think about the bigger picture and focus on what really matters most, then let go of the small stuff that really just does not matter. Patience, like all aspects of wellbeing, isn’t something that just magically happens because you decide to be more patient; it takes conscious effort every single day — and that begins with making a choice to be more patient.
The choice is yours, as it is with all things related to your wellbeing… so, what choice will you make today?
Each week I like to finish up by sharing a quote about the week’s topic, and I encourage you to take a few moments to really reflect on it and consider what it means to you. This week’s quote is by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, and it is:
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”Leo Tolstoy
Next week I’ll be talking about resistance. If you’ve ever watched Star Trek then you’ll know that the Borg, who might sound Swedish but are not (and yes that’s a reference to my favourite Star Trek movie, First Contact), very often like to remind anyone who will listen that “resistance is futile.” We tend to resist many things in life, even if they’re actually good for us, and we can often try to control things that we just cannot control… so it takes some work to be able to identify how to deal with all that stuff so we’re controlling what we can and letting go of what we cannot (but without being a pushover or becoming a drone for an army of cybernetic villains). So next time I’ll be talking about what resistance is, why overcoming resistance is essential for your mental health, and how to resist less and grow more.
I hope you’ll join me for that episode, which will be released on Sunday 7th February. If you’re in Australia, New Zealand or the Asia-Pacific region, it will be available at 7pm; in the UK & Europe it will be out early in the morning and in North & South America you’ll have it first-thing in the morning.
And of course, join me for Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV, which will now be out every Wednesday on YouTube following the same schedule (evenings in the Asia-Pacific, mornings in the rest of the world). Watch the latest episodes now at www.letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/YouTube or find the channel on YouTube. Be sure to subscribe to the channel!
Head over to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au for links and past episodes (including audio links and full transcripts) and while you’re there join the Let’s Talk About Mental Health mailing list to have exclusive updates land in your inbox — those of you on my email list find out about new stuff at least a week before anybody else, so if you like this show then sign up at the website: letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au.
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Thank you very much for joining me today — look after yourself and make a conscious effort to share positivity and kindness in the world, because you get back what you put out. Take care and talk to you next time.
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