Do we complain too much is a really hard question to answer… What is it like to go without complaining for a month? Sound like an impossible task? In February 2015 this is exactly what more than 1000 people did as they signed up to the Complaint Restraint Project established by Thierry Blancpain and Pieter Pelgrims. The idea behind the project was to determine whether we naturally complain too much and what impact this has on our mental health.
external factors contribute to complaining too much
We complain in order to vent our frustrations and simply just ‘let it all out’. We have external factors all around us that con contributes to making us complain. Our day-to-day lives provide so many opportunities to complain that we can easily fall into the trap of complaining too frequently. The goal of the project was to create a happier, more positive life by eliminating all the excess negativity.
to complain for half an hour a day damages your brain
Research by Stanford University, as referenced by Fast Company, found that complaining for half an hour a day can physically damage our brain – this isn’t just limited to complaining ourselves, but also listening to the complaints of others around us. Guy Winch, author of ‘The Squeaky Wheel’ adds that venting our complaints floods our bloodstream with the stress hormone – cortisol, which can, in turn, affect our ability to problem solve as well as other cognitive functions.
Previously, complaining was used as a constructive way to solve our problems. However, have we now turned into a world of serial complainers? Nowadays we feel the need to complain more frequently and see it as necessary to ‘vent our frustrations and ‘let it all out’; even if this gets us nowhere! This makes our complaints practically ineffective and not helpful in reaching a solution to our problem…. Plus will more likely put us in a worse mood! If we are continually complaining about things and not finding a solution, then we will start to feel helpless and hopeless which over time, will really impact our mood and self-esteem.
We are here to provide you with 10 top ways you can curb your habit of excessive complaining!
First, you need to be aware of what a complaint is. If you say ‘It is cold outside’ – this is an observation. However, if you add a negative comment on to this, such as, ‘I hate this country’, this makes it a complaint. You will also find your body language responds accordingly to this.
Make a conscious effort to make yourself aware of just how much you are complaining. Bringing your complaints into the limelight will also help you to discover just what types of things you are complaining about most commonly.
reduce the complainers
Even if we are not serial complainers ourselves, if the people around us are, then this will affect us. We will find ourselves slipping into their bad habits and they will bring down our mood! If someone is complaining to you, instead of joining in with the complaining, offer a positive viewpoint. This will either result in them appreciating your positive view and hopefully, their own complaining will also decrease, or they will stop complaining to you because they know they will not get the same negative response their brain is looking for.
use the ‘But….’ technique
If you find yourself pointlessly moaning then add a ‘but’ followed by a positive grateful message.
change your ‘Have to’s’ to ‘Get to’s’
This is a really simple but effective trick to change your mindset, suggested by Trevor Blake, author of ‘Three Simple Steps’. Changing saying ‘I have to….’ do a particular thing, to ‘I get to….’, automatically turns around your pessimistic mindset.
refrain from being so judgemental
A frequent cause of our complaints is being overly critical of others around us and of ourselves. Remove the ‘should of’, ‘would of’ and ‘could of’s from your vocabulary. List your strengths to compliment yourself. If you stop judging those around you so much and realise these judgements are just putting you in a pessimistic mood, you will find you complain much less. “Judging a person does not define who they are. It defines who you are.”
avoid in the future
If there is a complaint which comes up frequently, consider what you can do in the future to avoid it appearing again. Be proactive to tackle these so they do not keep cropping up.
accept and appreciate the choices you have made
A lot of our complaints may derive from choices and changes we have made and the accompanying new challenges. However, remind yourself why you have made this choice or change and that the challenges are worth it. Be grateful for the good changes you have made and move forward.
work with what you have got
Work out which complaints you cannot influence and are out of your control and let these go – complaining will not have any impact and will not make you feel any better either! With other complaints try to look for the silver lining to challenges you are facing.
Practising meditation will help you to overcome your negative thoughts and eliminate the stress, anger and anxiety which accompanies it. Put things into perspective, relax, breathe and think. Be grateful and leverage your strengths and learn to accept those things you cannot change.
It is important to remember, however, that if your complaining is effective and done in the right way then it will not only create a solution, but it can also have benefits on our mental health. Think of a time when you have complained about a customer service issue and have received a pleasing response from the company, did this have a positive, empowering effect? Effective complaining which actually creates a solution to the problem will positively affect our mood and self-esteem. When you consider complaining about an issue, stop and think if the issue is something which could be solved by complaining. If the complaint will just end up bringing your mood down even more, then take a deep breath and move on.
be mindful to avoid complaining at work
Being mindful of your situation, and aware of your surroundings can lead to a much more pleasant and calmer working environment. The ability to be mindful at work enhance your ability to lead, especially in stressful situations. A mindful leader is a leader who has clarity and doesn’t get clouded over by the negatives and stresses of everyday working life. By showing mindful leadership qualities, you can impose positive influences to those around you, and influence how they act in more stressful situations.
How do you deal with the devil that is ‘to complain’? Let us know in the comments below – we’re always looking for way’s in which to battle the urge to complain and remove it from our daily lives!