The Link Between Patience and Serotonin, According to Science

Several studies have shown that serotonin is the neurotransmitter that allows individuals to develop patience. Read on to learn how to develop patience.
The Link Between Patience and Serotonin, According to Science
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

People say that patience is a virtue. However, science says that more than a virtue, it’s a neurological competence that everyone should develop. Think about it for a second: how different would your life be if you were to become more patient? Would you like to be able to better withstand setbacks and wait for the future without feeling nervous or frustrated?

The first thing you’d achieve is psychological well-being. Wanting everything immediately only makes your mind more anxious. The truth is that, in today’s society, people are always in a hurry, to the point where we’ve become the antithesis of patience. Most people are victims of haste. There doesn’t seem to be enough time, which leads them to want to be in control of everything all the time.

In the 1970s, Heinz ketchup was still sold in glass bottles. One day, the executives of this famous brand discovered that their customers felt frustrated when they used this container. The glass forced them to have to turn the product over and wait for the sauce to reach the cap. Impatience bothered them and, as a result, sales went down.

Basically, this forced them to create an innovative advertising campaign. They created the slogan “It’s slow good” to convince them that good things required patience. It’s safe to say that it was quite a success.

Those who can’t seem to wait for anything are bound to feel frustrated on a constant basis. In reality, nothing can be more enriching than training patience and understanding that waiting is well worth it sometimes.

A brain showing electricity, demonstrating the link between patience and serotonin.

We’d all love to be patient every day and in every circumstance. However, the brain isn’t prepared for this competition. Basically, two basic mechanisms control the brain. Firstly, getting immediate reinforcements and seeking pleasure, rewards, and well-being. For example, no one’s fond of waiting excessively for their food at a restaurant.

However, there’s another fact to consider. The brain reacts with alarm and suffering when the body’s controlled by uncertainty. If things don’t go the way you planned, it’s more than likely that you’ll start to suffer, begin feeling anxious, and won’t be able to stop worrying. Although no one likes to wait, sooner or later, we realize that life’s about doing just that.

Patience is a protective net that may allow you to go through the complexity of everyday life without falling into frustration and discomfort. Interestingly, science discovered certain mechanisms that make it possible to boost this virtue. Let’s see.

Serotonin and its role in patience

Katsuhiko Miyazaki and Kayoko Miyazaki, of the Okinawa University of Science and Technology in Japan, conducted a study that was published in the journal Science Advances. In it, they talked about the relationship between patience and serotonin and how it affects a person’s well-being. Let’s discover some facts.

  • We know that, in order to regulate emotions, it’s essential to learn to suppress the urge for gratification. This also serves to improve behavior and achieve long-term benefits. Impatience is the source of anxiety and the root of psychological discomfort.
  • Until now, no one knew about the mechanisms that differentiated patient people from those who were impulsive.
  • The study conducted at the Okinawa University of Science and Technology found that serotonin is the neurotransmitter that modulates patience. The researchers were able to prove this in mice.
  • Serotonin is that multipurpose neurotransmitter in charge of regulating many processes, from mood and sleep and wake cycles to appetite, among others. Now we know that it’s also key to favoring impulse control and patience.
  • More researchers are studying this serotonin mechanism to learn how it affects different areas of the brain.
A man looking over the horizon.

Patience isn’t innate, it’s trained

Saint Augustine once said that “Patience is the companion of wisdom”. However, one aspect that this study detailed is that this competence is the result of learning. Promoting patience little by little can have a very positive effect on your quality of life.

Many people seek help because they don’t like the world they’re surrounded by. They feel frustrated and just want out. Undoubtedly, these individuals are drowning in a pool of impatience. Instead of staying calm and working every day for things to change in the future, they’re angry because things aren’t the way they’d like them to be right now.

Faced with this situation, you may be wondering how you could train yourself to be more patient. How could get your brain to release more serotonin? The following phrases may help you reflect on this:

  • Patience is the ability to be calm in the face of adversity.
  • To develop it optimally and effectively, you must start learning to tolerate negative emotions. You need to accept, understand, and regulate your internal emotional universe.
  • Self-control is the antidote to impulsivity.
  • Reframe your way of thinking about everything that makes you lose patience.
  • Remember your purpose. When you know something good is coming your way in the future, you become more inspired to be patient.

To conclude, in a world defined by uncertainty and unforeseen changes, being patient is an obligation. Train your brain to keep calm even during the hardest of days.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Katsuhiko Miyazaki, Kayoko W. Miyazaki, Gaston Sivori, Akihiro Yamanaka, Kenji F. Tanaka, Kenji Doya. Serotonergic projections to the orbitofrontal and medial prefrontal cortices differentially modulate waiting for future rewards. Science Advances, 2020; 6 (48): eabc7246 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc7246
  • Miyazaki, Kayoko W., Katsuhiko Miyazaki, Kenji F. Tanaka, Akihiro Yamanaka, Aki Takahashi, Sawako Tabuchi, and Kenji Doya. “Optogenetic activation of dorsal raphe serotonin neurons enhances patience for future rewards.” Current Biology (2014) DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.07.041
  • Miyazaki, Kayoko W., Katsuhiko Miyazaki, and Kenji Doya. “Activation of dorsal raphe serotonin neurons is necessary for waiting for delayed rewards.” Journal of Neuroscience (2012) DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0915-12.2012

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.