Complaining comes naturally to most people. It can even help you make friends. Moms get together and complain about things their kids did. Wives complain about things their husbands did (and vice versa). Employees complain about their boss, their company or their commute.
Take a moment and think about the things that you’ve already said today. Did you complain about something (or a lot of things)? Did you hear someone else complain about something (or a lot of things)?
Just because complaining comes naturally doesn’t mean that it’s good for your health. It’s a bad habit that we apparently need to learn to break.
Fast Company reports that “When we complain, our brains release stress hormones that harm neural connections in areas used for problem solving and other cognitive functions.”
What’s worse, is that not only are these neural connections harmed when we complain, but they’re also harmed when we listen to other people complain.
Jon Gordon, the author of the book “The No Complaining Rule,” says, “It’s as bad as secondhand smoke. It’s secondhand complaining.”
While complaining is bad for your health, keeping your emotions bottled up isn’t healthy either. In fact, it can shorten your life by 2 years. So, what are we to do?
It’s best to strive to cut back on complaining. You’re probably not going to stop complaining entirely, but it’s helpful to try to look at the positive instead of focusing on the negative. For example, instead of phrasing things as “I have to,” change it to “I get to.” Instead of saying, “I have to drive to work,” say “I get to drive to work.” It changes your mindset to one of appreciation. Appreciate that you have a car and a job.
If you find yourself slipping and saying something negative, try to add a positive comment at the end so that you end the thought feeling thankful. For example, if you say “I have to go to work,” you could add, “but I’m thankful that I have a job.”
You can also look for solutions to your problems. Instead of complaining about your commute, for example, maybe find an alternative route to work, find a carpool buddy so you can share the carpool lane, or look into public transportation so you can read a book on the way to work instead of dealing with bumper to bumper traffic.
It’s also best not to encourage people who are complaining. In fact, when you hear someone complaining, try to say something positive. Eventually, people who like to complain will stop complaining around you because they won’t be getting the response they desire.
In February, about 1000 people took part in a project called the “Complaint Restraint” project. The goal was to stop complaining. One of the participants, Leah Shapiro, admitted that she still found herself complaining, but she made a conscious effort to be positive. She found that going to hot yoga and keeping a journal helped prevent her from complaining.
Does it surprise you to learn that complaining is bad for your health? What steps are you going to take to stop complaining? What do you usually complain about the most?