We complain because we hope it will lighten our burdens, but it usually makes them feel heavier. We start exaggerating our troubles, and our gloom spreads to those around us. Pretty soon, minor irritations loom larger, and our health may decline.
In fact, a famous study by Stanford University found that complaining may be more dangerous than you think. Their research showed that complaining shrinks your hippocampus, thereby reducing your memory and problem-solving abilities.
It also increases stress hormones that can cause you to gain weight and raise your risk for serious conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.
While it would be difficult to stop complaining completely, you can train yourself to complain less and do it more constructively. Use these tips to help you deal with dissatisfaction.
- Monitor your behavior. Studies show that chronic complaining rewires your brain so grumbling may become automatic. Count how many times a day you vent. Keeping a written journal may help. Note your personal triggers and how you feel after you vent.
- Cultivate gratitude. You could also use your journal to increase your sense of appreciation, a powerful antidote to complaining. Remember the things you have to be grateful for and seize opportunities to thank others.
- Reduce stress. Taking care of yourself makes you less vulnerable to complaining. Meditate daily or find other ways to relax. Learn to laugh at yourself.
- Seek positive attention. Do you whine to get attention? You’ll probably attract more empathy and validation with a cheerful attitude.
- Find new friends. Griping is contagious. You may need to limit your time around others who tend to bring out your tendency to raise a fuss. Surround yourself with positive influences and strong role models.
- Set limits. Set realistic goals. Challenge yourself to give up complaining for an hour at a time and then extend that to a full day.
- Focus on solutions. Before you start venting, think through what you’re trying to achieve. Pick areas of your life where you have significant control over the outcomes.
- Choose the proper channel. Think about your timing and ensure you’re complaining to the appropriate person. Your boss will be more likely to modify an assignment if you approach them first and discuss your concerns privately instead of airing them on Facebook.
- Manage your emotions. Stick to the facts even when you’re upset or angry. Hostility and exaggerations could put others on the defensive and cost you credibility.
- Assume responsibility. Hold yourself accountable for your role in any situation. You’ll make it easier for others to cooperate with you, and you’ll be able to see where you can make changes.
- Be specific. Resist the urge to air your grievances in large batches. Address one point at a time so others can understand your position and you can see if you’re able to make progress.
- Open up. Chronic complaining crushes hope. Listen to others’ perspectives instead of clinging to your own point of view and be open to the possibility for change.
- Take action. Steer your discussions towards coming up with a concrete plan of action that you can implement and evaluate. Be prepared to do something about what’s bothering you even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Consider counseling. Changing any pervasive habit can be challenging. If you’re having trouble breaking the cycle of chronic complaining, try talking with a therapist. They can help you form new and more rewarding habits.
Complaining reinforces negative thinking and compromises your wellbeing. Train your brain to complain less and focus on solutions when you do decide to discuss your dissatisfaction.