Everyone is going to do a bit of complaining now and again. A lot of the time, we do not even really realize that we are doing it. According to the research, in an average conversation we complain approximately once every minute. But is giving up complaining even possible? Trevor Blake, author of Three Simple Steps says that there is a social reason for this. “Nothing unites people more strongly than a common dislike. The easiest way to build friendship and communicate is through something negative.”
Giving Up Complaining May Not Be So Easily Done
While complaining clearly serves a purpose, it can come at a price. When we complain, our brains release stress hormones that can do damage to the neural connections of the brain that are responsible for problem solving and other cognitive functions. These same things also occur when someone else is complaining to us. While there is a time and place for complaining and studies have shown that bottling emotions up for too long can have detrimental effects too, there have been movements recently to keep complaining at bay.
Four Paths To A More Positive (Complaint-Free) Life
A recent project called Complain Restraint asked anyone who signed up to go a month without complaining. The goal of the project is to create a more positive life. There are a few ways that you can start to think about having more positivity in your life.
1. Create a definition for complaining and figure out how much you do it.
What is a complaint really? When you point out that it is hot outside that is an observation. When you inject how you feel about the fact that it is hot outside, that can be a complaint. Making a conscious effort to notice when you start to complain can be enough to make a big difference in how you interact with people. It is possible that you will be shocked at the sheer number of complaints that you and the people to whom you are talking share in an average conversation. Awareness is the first step to changing your behaviors.
2. Start turning complaints into positive statements and solutions.
Jon Gordon, author of The No Complaining Rule, said “If you find yourself griping, add a ‘but’ and say something positive.” For example, “I don’t like driving to work, but I’m thankful at least I can drive and I even have a job,” or “I had a really difficult day today, but I am happy that it is over, and I can start fresh tomorrow.” Even just thinking a positive statement along with a negative statement can change your mood.
3. Gordon also recommends changing “Have to” to “Get to”
“I have to let out my neighbors’ dog.” “I have to throw a baby shower for my sister.” “I have to go home and cook dinner for my family.” Sometimes these little obligations can seem like such annoyances or inconveniences. But if you treat them like you “get to” do them rather than “have to” do them, you might find that you are able to look at them more positively. The difference between “I have to call my grandmother today,” and “I get to call my grandmother today,” is more than just one word.
4. Remove chronic complainers from your life.
Once you start to think about complaining and how often you do it and how it effects your mood, you may start to notice how much the people around you complain. You are going to notice which of your friends only wants to talk about the problems she is having with her job or his partner or their children. The first step with these kinds of people is to try to respond with some positive. Blake said, “You’ve really gotta be quite brave and confident and have the courage not to need the good opinion of another person… You find over a period of time those people who complain constantly start to leave you alone because their brains are not getting that stimulus they’re looking for.”
You can make a big difference in your life and your outlook by doing your best to stop the cycle of complaining. You are going to slip along the way, but if you give it your best effort, it can really make a difference in your mental landscape.