Impatience is Unhealthy and Caused by Fast Society

Do you get angry at slowpokes? The person meandering on the sidewalk? The person who is always late? The driver in the left lane cruising under the speed limit? The express checkout lane that isn’t actually express? If so, you are far from alone. In fact, being upset with slow walkers is quantifiable; you can be ranked on the Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale.

Impatience started as an evolutionary skill. Early man had to weigh if an outcome was worth the effort: will this slow action help me live or should I go for a faster fix? Essentially, it stopped us from waiting to death. Now, that same mechanism might have you feeling irritated at the deli counter when someone orders multiple things that need slicing. Society has worsened our impatience. In a world where websites load in milliseconds, where we can send a letter from our phone and someone will receive it instantaneously, our annoyance has worsened. We assume a site is broken if it takes more than an instant to load, we wonder why someone hasn’t texted back if it’s more than a few minutes.

Impatience is no longer beneficial. We have seen time and again that stress is unhealthy for physical wellbeing as well as mental. Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed impatience might increase the risk of hypertension among young adults. The Journal of Biosocial Science research linked increasing impatience to the obesity epidemic. Impatient people are more likely to report headaches, acne, ulcers, diarrhea and pneumonia. Additionally, impatient people report more sleep problems which can be linked to a myriad of ailments.

Is there anything to change an impatient person? Yes, absolutely. Here are three options. The first thing you can do, if you are an impatient person, is notice your mood. If your coffee is brewing slowly, breathe out and recognize your irritation. Merely acknowledging the way you’re feeling can help ease the irritation.

The second approach is to reframe the problem. The coffee isn’t brewing too slowly; it’s giving you time to put the bread into the bread bin, pick out a banana and wipe down the counter. This can help teach you self-control which is also beneficial in our daily lives. However, this can backfire on you. When we practice restraint in one instance, we might permit ourselves to do something we otherwise would not have, i.e., “I was patient about my coffee; I should reward myself with a doughnut.”

The third approach may be the hardest: practice gratitude. People who feel grateful for what they have already are far less impatient. If you are thankful for what you have, you are not as desperate to get to the next step. Next time you are in a long line or behind someone who dawdles, count your blessing and it might help. Tell yourself that you are lucky to have this minor inconvenience as the worst problem in your day. Remind yourself of what’s great about your surroundings. If you do this enough, it can become a habit to the point wherein you don’t even do it consciously. You let go of the aggression before it even begins. You can get more tips about how to feel less impatient here.

Next time you are in stopped traffic, breathe out, take a moment find a great song on the radio, remind yourself that some people on Earth have never heard that song and enjoy it. Before you know it, traffic will be moving again and your health will thank you!

March 28, 2019
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