Life can be extremely stressful. We face constant day-to-day challenges that add layers of stress to living life in such an already fast-paced and competitive world.
So how do we usually cope?
Our first instinct is to complain. Somehow it has become a natural reaction to us. We gripe, groan, vent, and bemoan the unfairness of it all.
You probably don’t go a day without at least complaining a few times. In fact, research shows that during an average conversation, we complain to each other at least once every minute.
Socially, we also like to complain because it’s an easy way to relate to one another.
“Nothing unites people more strongly than a common dislike. The easiest way to build friendship and communicate is through something negative,” saysThree Simple Steps author Trevor Blake.
Naturally, we believe that it helps. Complaining, to us, is just another way to release stress. Or so we thought.
Complaining is harmful to your brain health
It’s actually the opposite. According to research from Stanford University, when you complain, your brain releases stress hormones that damage your neural connections. Specifically, complaining affects your brain’s problem-solving and other cognitive functions.
Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 says:
“Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining becomes your default behavior, which changes how people perceive you.
“And here’s the kicker: complaining damages other areas of your brain as well. Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the hippocampus—an area of the brain that’s critical to problem solving and intelligent thought. Damage to the hippocampus is scary, especially when you consider that it’s one of the primary brain areas destroyed by Alzheimer’s.”
And guess what, the same thing happens when you hear someone else groan, moan or complain. It’s exactly like inhaling second-hand smoke.
So it doesn’t really matter if you’re the one complaining or listening, it causes damage either way.
Complaining can be healthy if done right
Wait, so if complaining is bad for us, does that mean we have to keep it to ourselves?
Actually, a separate study shows that bottling up emotions can shorten your lifespan. And in this case, venting allows you to release those negative emotions.
So what should you do, really?
There could be a middle ground. Here are a few tips to complain without further stressing your self out.
1. Complain intelligently.
The first thing you can do is complain with a purpose. Take a second and think about it more. Don’t do it unless you have a solution in mind. It’s important that you first know what you want.
Also, this allows the person you complaining to, to help you more effectively. It’s a win-win.
Complaining is only unhealthy when it’s counter-productive.
2. Keep track of your complaints and how often you say them.
You might not notice it, but you could sometimes complain about the same thing over and over again.
Change can only start after awareness.
Keep track of your complaints. And if you find yourself always complaining about one particular thing, do something to fix it.
3. Consider who you’re complaining to.
How often have we complained to the wrong person?
You call customer support and end up raising your voice to someone who didn’t actually cause your problem.
Who is listening to your complaint? Is it someone who can help you instead? Rein in your temper.
4. Avoid chronic complainers.
As mentioned above, the negative effects of complaining can also come from hearing them from other people.
There’s no shame in cutting off people that bring negativity to your life. And if you find yourself being on the other end of a complaint, bring some positivity to it rather than replying with another complaint.
5. Complain social media properly.
This is another reason why social media can be quite toxic. It’s a place people vent on a lot.
In truth, venting on social media can be a good thing as you might find more people or businesses to help you more effectively. Like if your package didn’t arrive on time and you complain on the postal service’s Facebook page.
However, it’s wrong if you’re simply letting your temper run and use social media to tell unassuming people your whole business. Again, it’s counter-productive and a waste of time.
6. Add a positive “but” to your complaint.
Here’s an example. “I don’t like my steak cooked like this, but I’m glad I have something to eat.”
Sometimes we get caught up in ourselves that we constantly complain instead of being grateful for what we have.
When you’re stressed about something and find yourself getting annoyed, center yourself with this simple technique.
7. Learn to let it go.
Don’t carry that toxicity around. You can’t control every outcome, but you can control your reaction.
You’ve taken time to complain in a healthy way. Sometimes things just don’t go as planned.
Stop dwelling on your problem. If it’s not serving you, let it go.