Let’s be honest: Human beings like to complain – a lot. Whether it’s about the traffic, the weather, or a difficult boss, nothing brings people together like disliking the same thing. It definitely seems like speaking negatively is commonplace in our daily lives, but is it good for us? One study actually shows that chronic complainers could be bad for our health – whether it’s us or the people around us.
Chronic Complainers Are Bad For Our Health
It is natural to sometimes gripe and whine over something. I get it – the fact that your bus is always late is annoying, and your neighbor’s dog that won’t stop barking at 5 am wakes you up early and makes you tired for the rest of the day. Though it may feel good to sometimes get something off your chest and you think complaining might make you feel better, a study suggests that this is not the case. In fact, they show that complaining, or being constantly surrounded by chronic complainers, might be bad for your health. (1)
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Chronic Complaining Actually Damages Your Brain
It seems extreme, but that’s what these researchers found. A half-hour of complaining every single day actually damages a person’s brain. Now, before you go thinking “Well, I don’t complain that much, so I’m fine” I challenge you to actually study that yourself. For one day track how many times you complain throughout the day. You will be shocked at just how much time you actually spend simply complaining about things.
What’s worse, is that it doesn’t just have to be you doing the complaining. The researchers found that being surrounded by chronic complainers is like second-hand smoke. Listening to other people complain constantly is just as damaging as if you were doing it yourself. So now, if you add up how much time you complain plus the time you spend listening to others complain – well, that’s a lot of time spent on negativity. (2)
The researchers found that complaining, or listening to people complain, our brains release stress hormones that harm the neural connections in areas responsible for problem-solving. So complaining not only does nothing to help solve the problem, but it also inhibits your ability to problem solve. We’re just being negative to be negative, and we’re bringing down ourselves and others in the process. (3)
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Experts say that one of the biggest problems is that we’ve forgotten the original purpose of complaining. After all, the purpose isn’t to complain just for the sake of complaining. It’s to highlight a problem to be solved and help find a solution. For example, complaining to your spouse or friends about the upstairs neighbor who decides 11 pm is a good time to practice the drums won’t get them to stop practicing at that time. Rather, knocking on their door and saying “Hey, I have to get up early for work and have trouble sleeping because of your drum playing. Is there any way you could practice earlier in the evening?” might actually insight change.
Steps To Better (And Less) Complaining
There are some steps you can take to complain less and when you do feel the need, to do so more effectively. These will help you to be a more positive person and also help you to remove negative, chronic complainers from your life. Or more specifically, they will eventually remove themselves. People who want to complain only for validation will quickly become annoyed that you aren’t giving them that and take their complaints elsewhere.
5 Ways to Complain Less
- This is stating the obvious, but complain less. Pay attention to when you’re complaining and simply try to do so less. It’s amazing how often we complain for truly no reason at all.
- Use the “But – Positive” method. This means turning something negative into something positive. For example: That was a really tough week at work, but at least now we have the process in place to make that easier to solve in the future.
- Always start positive. Before launching into a complaint (particularly when dealing with customer service), start positively. Remember, you’ll receive better service if you remain positive, polite, and kind throughout the entire process.
- Change “Have To” to “Get To”. It might be a bit weird at first, but eventually it will help you to look at things more positively. For example, instead of “I have to finish this report” to “I get to finish this report and show my boss how capable I am for future opportunities”.
- Turn complaints into solutions. If you catch yourself complaining or about to complain, stop and think about what you can do to change that situation. For example, “winter is so cold, living here is the worst” to “it’s cold outside – what can I do to make the most of the winter season?”.
Doing this will not only make your mindset more positive and make you happier, but it will also attract more positive people around you. The more you surround yourself with positive people, the easier it will be to be positive yourself. Your happiness and your health will thank you.
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