WE have grown impatient as a species, or at least that's true of those of us who live in the most economically developed parts of the world. With relentless industrialisation and technological innovation we have come to expect solutions at the click of a finger, or rather, the tap of a screen on our smart phone.

If the internet is slow we feel irritated and frustrated. We search for replies to our emails and messages on social media within minutes of sending them. Our managers at work expect instant answers, day or night in some cases.

But some things simply don’t come quickly. No matter how soon you would like your baby to walk, it has to go through a growing and developing process. It’s the same with the development of speech in an infant. Given due love and attention, encouragement and playful coaxing, the skills of walking and talking usually emerge over time.

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In a similar way we develop all sorts of traits. They take time to develop, some more than others. Lifelong genetic traits such as bad-temperedness or kindness can be seen in toddlers, but other traits develop more as a result of familial, local or national culture and individual life experiences. These emerge over time in a complex, ever-shifting ebb and flow of life events and responses.

It is usually impossible to identify exactly what combination of experiences and genetic tendencies lead to certain challenging states of mind, such as depression, anxiety, anger or chronic stress. There’s a tendency or temptation to point to a single major event and assume it’s the sole cause of a particular state of mind. But the reality is usually far more complex, comprising of a vast amount of experiences and inherent tendencies coming together to result in a negative prolonged mental state. The same is true for positive states of mind, though ironically these are far less researched and understood, such is our fascination with negativity.

Sometimes single events do result instantly in a massive change of mood or view. This has been reported in both positive and negative cases, but they are by far the exception. Normally particular long-lasting states of mind and traits take years or even decades to develop.

Mindfulness helps us work on these states of mind or traits. However, just as they usually take decades to develop, so the process of unwinding or unlearning these can take similar lengths of time. We need to be patient with our mindfulness practice. It is not something that works overnight, although it often provides some short-term longed-for relief from the worst aspects of our negative mental states.

Ironically patience itself is a highly-skilled mental trait. Some people seem to have it from birth, others are not so fortunate. So a skill we need in order to stick with mindfulness is often not inherently in some people. Unless they get instant relief or change they lose patience with the practice and give it up.

What usually happens with such people is that a few days or weeks later they realise that they have no Plan B to deal with their negativity, so go back to trying mindfulness. Again the lack of immediate results kicks off another bout of impatience, and the unhelpful cycle re-commences. We can only hope in these circumstances that enough of the skill of mindfulness sticks, and that at some point it wins against the impatience long enough for the individual to build a new routine of mindful practice in their life. I have seen this happen, so it’s not all bad news for those of you who are inherently impatient.

The same is true for the deeply sceptical and the cynical amongst us. Dismissive right from the start, unless it helps straight away, such people reject the practices as a con. The irony is that this type of person probably needs mindfulness more than most of us, as their blinkered, closed-minded life view means they experience less of the joy of life than is out there.

Mindfulness is a lifelong practice. I’ve been doing it for 20 years, have benefitted immensely from it through those two decades, and I intend to continue to use it to ward off my worst personal traits and nurture my best qualities for the rest of my life. I hope you will too.