“Complaining is the ultimate form of self-sabotage,” wrote Eckhart Tolle in his book, The Power of Now. 15-30 times per day is how much the average person complains. The weather, spam calls, traffic, prices, people, wi-fi, Mondays, the news, our job, our sports team, our aches, our house, etc. The list of things we complain about can go on and on. Complaining is easy and usually warranted. That’s why we do it! Something is bothering us, and we want to voice our concerns and get validation from others that our problem is legitimate. To an extent, complaining is fine. We can build emotional health and stronger relationships with people around us, sharing our issues and concerns with others. It’s when it becomes redundant, and we ruminate on these negative feelings where it starts to play an unfavorable toll on our health and well-being. Here are some strategies to try if you find yourself complaining often.
Complaining if done constantly can have adverse effects on your health. When we complain, our stress response hormone, cortisol, rises. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and mood swings. Complaining often can contribute to depression, rewiring our brain on a neurological level, making negative thinking, and expressing these feelings a habit. Complaining can also shrink our hippocampus, a part of our brain that plays an essential role in memory and learning, by physically peeling away neurons and impairing its ability to make new neurons. Being pessimistic can also exacerbate your risk of death from all causes, as cynical people live an average of 11-15% shorter than their optimistic peers. Lastly, complaining is contagious, and when we complain, we make the people around us more negative and want to join in on the complaint train.
Here are some strategies to try if you find yourself complaining often.
- Wear a rubber band on your wrist and switch it from one wrist to the other before you are about to complain (or after if you don’t catch yourself in time).
- Write about your complaint and feelings. Journaling or writing out what is bothering you can fulfill and replace your need to complain.
- Reframe the complaint by looking at the bright side. If you are sitting in traffic, you now have extra time to listen to your favorite podcast.
- Stop, take a deep breath and acknowledge your feelings to yourself. And then move on or take action to solve the problem.
- Remember, someone somewhere is in a similar or worse position than you.
The less we complain, the more room we will leave for gratitude and seeing the good with what life offers. I started with an Eckhart Tolle quote, and I’ll end with one. “Leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”
To MAS health,