"Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction.
Break the habit. Talk about your joys."
~ Rita Schiano
Complaining is common social behaviour. But it's not always healthy - for us or for those around us!
We have all experienced hard times and face current challenges. There are certainly times when it is appropriate and very healing to share our troubles and ask for help, but I believe that for most of us, most of the time, constantly talking about our problems or sorrows only perpetuates them - we live through them once and then we re-live the pain, anger or stress again with each re-telling.
A lot of people subscribe to the belief that it is healthy to vent, and let aaaaallll of your frustrations out. But that's not always healthy for you, especially if you do it all the time - and it can also impact the moods of the people around you too. And worse, it can become a life-long toxic habit; one that hard-wires your brain for negativity and undermines healthy relationships.
Now I'm all about self-improving and making positive changes to create a healthy, happy, wonderful life! And part of that process does involve identifying areas of our lives we aren't completely happy with. Choosing appropriate (willing) people to discuss issues you aren't happy about once or twice in order to troubleshoot and problem-solve can actually be constructive. But that doesn't mean we have to have a big old long-running moan about it to everyone we come across! Venting indiscriminantly about your latest peeve is generally counterproductive and can be incredibly damaging to your own wellbeing as well as those around you. And the research backs me up on this!
Research has shown that if we do this we will magnify our feelings of disgruntlement. You run the risk of getting into an endless loop of constant complaining, and priming your neural pathways to look for problems and roadblocks rather than solutions and joy and progress.
And worse, we also lower the mood of those we complain to and cause them "cognitive fatigue". This explains why listening to someone who constantly complains is so emotionally exhausting!
So it's time to get a little mindful. Catch yourself whenever you find yourself focussing what is wrong in your life and complaining about it indiscriminantly.
Check out this awesome video by Will Bowen, a self-described "world authority on complaining" and founder of A Complaint-Free World:
Will asserts that the five reasons why people complain:
- To get attention
- To remove responsibility for improving their situation
- To inspire envy (you know, "humblebragging"!)
- To gain power by finding fault
- To excuse their poor performance
Do you agree?
Check out this awesome video of the divine Maya Angelou asking "who would we be if we stopped complaining?":
My life experience has taught me that we attract into our lives what we consistently focus on.
Whilst I don't believe we should matyr ourselves or smile our way through poor treatment or unacceptable circumstances, I do think we need to be a lot more judicious about what irritations and disappointments we choose to give voice to (and how often we do so!).
So I'm making a concerted effort to choose to focus on kindness, happiness, health, abundance, healing, laughter and joy; in my thinking, in what I talk about and how I live. Wanna join me?
- Bushman, B. J. (2002). Does venting anger feed or extinguish the flame? Catharsis, rumination, distraction, anger, and aggressive responding. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 724–731.
- Neumann, R. & Strack, F. (2000). Mood contagion: The automatic transfer of mood between persons. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 211–223.
- Kowalski R. M. (1996). Complaints and complaining: functions, antecedents, and consequences. Psychological Bulletin, 119, 179–196.