It’s something we all do, hundreds of times a day – averaging about once every minute. Complain. Whether it’s about the traffic, the weather, or our job, complaining is hard to avoid. But this habit can become the negative soundtrack of our lives.
Why do we do it? It feels good to vent, doesn’t it? Complaining also seems like a good way to connect; when we get together and moan about a common dislike, it can create a bonding experience. Complaining should make us feel better, right? Well, scientific tells us otherwise. Instead of simply letting off steam, griping makes us angrier and puts our health, relationships and careers at risk.
Complaining is Harmful to Your Health
When we complain, we release the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol levels rise, our immune system is compromised, blood pressure goes up, we gain weight and there is an increased risk of heart disease. It can also harm parts of the brain used for problem solving and other cognitive functions. (This also happens when we listen to someone else moan and groan).
You can Rewire Your Brain towards Positivity
Thankfully, we can change this habit. Recent advances in brain research indicate that our brains are constantly being reorganized throughout our lives, changing with every thought. The more we use certain pathways, the stronger they get and the easier it is for the brain to travel along these data highways. In other words, having a thought makes it easier to have that thought again. The things we think about repeatedly shape our personality; we become what we think about most. Cut down on complaining and your brain will physically change so that you are less often triggering pessimism, fear, and other negative mental states.
Strategies to Cut the Complaining Habit
- Track how often you complain. Awareness is the first step towards change.
- If you catch yourself whining, add the word ‘but’ and find something positive about the situation. For example, “There is so much traffic, but I’m grateful I’m driving a comfortable car and listening to my favorite tunes”.
- If you notice you are saying “I have to…” or “I should…” change it to “I get to…” You’ll feel more empowered and positive.
- Complaining without moving towards a solution can make us feel victimized and powerless. Make a direct request for action to resolve the problem. For example, “Its cold in here, so could you please turn up the heat”.
- Journal about what’s bothering you so you can gain a better understanding and come up with possible solutions.
- Instead of complaining about a bad experience, ask what the lesson is and use it as an opportunity to grow.
- Spend more time with people who uplift you and less time with chronic complainers – because complaining is contagious.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but the less you complain, the more you’ll find to appreciate and be grateful for – and the happier and more peaceful you will feel.