How hard is it to stop complaining?
No complaining, will it make a difference to how you feel?
We have decided to put it to the test, and have vowed to No Complaining for the month of May. Will it make a difference to how we feel, to our life in general, will we have more energy? How hard can it be, right?
Complaining or griping comes naturally to us, complaining about the weather, the missed appointment, the queue in the post office or the barking dog next door. We all complain on a daily basis or listen to other people complaining every day. On a bad day, working in retail, we could spend the whole day complaining about the weather.
How does complaining affect our mood?
Complaining comes as second nature to us, it unites us, nothing like a good old chin wag complaining about the weather or the state of the country. According to some research we throw complaints at each other about once a minute.
“Nothing unites us like a common dislike” says Trevor Blake, author of Three Simple Steps. “The easiest way to build friendship and communicate is through something negative”
But what does this complaining do to us, how does it affect us? When we complain, our brains release stress hormones that harm neural connections in areas of the brain used for problem solving and other cognitive functions. Not good guys! This also happens when we listen to other people complain, so even if you’re not doing the complaining your brain is reacting as if it was. It’s as bad as second hand smoke; second hand complaining can actually damage your cognitive function! My God our brains are losing their ability for solving problems by just listening to someone complain about the weather! Smoking is banned in the work place, should we ban complaining?
How do we stop complaining?
It’s hard to stop doing something that is a habit of a life time, and sometimes we do need to vent. It makes us feel better and it’s not good to bottle up our emotions. Sometimes complaints are used as a form of constructive criticism, we complain about something in a restaurant for instance in the hope that this will improve the service. There is absolutely no point in complaining about the weather because we can’t do a thing to change it! So is there a middle ground, can we turn the complaints around and make them more positive?
Ok so let’s look at it in a bit more detail.
1: Define what a complaint is.
Ok so it’s raining outside, it is ok to look out and say “oh look it’s raining outside” This is just an observation and not a complaint. But if you look out and say “Oh lord what a horrible day, I hate the rain” Now that is a complaint. The complaint will make you feel worse than the rain itself. Not to mention what it is doing to your brain and its problem solving abilities.
2. How often do you actually complain?
Track how many times in the day you complain, become more aware of how you phrase things and how you respond to other people’s complaints. You might be surprised by how many complaints you actually make.
3. Try to steer clear of chronic complainers.
If you find yourself lending an ear once too often and listening to someone else’s complaints, do not respond with another complaint. And don’t agree with the complaints; instead try to find something positive to say. They will soon leave you alone and find someone else to complain to. Chronic complainers don’t want to hear the positives they want you to agree with them, to join in with the complaining. And all the time you are listening and agreeing you are not helping your brain with all the problem solving it will need to do. So turn the complaints into positives.
4. Turn the complaints into solutions.
Like number 3 above, turn the complaint into a positive solution. Constructive complaining, don’t sit around complaining about something, change it, get up and do something about it. If it’s raining outside and you had planned on going for a walk, get yourself some wet gear and wellies and get out anyway.
5. Use the BUT- POSITIVE technique.
If you find yourself complaining, try adding a positive to it. So it’s lashing rain and you have planned on going for a walk. Instead of saying “I hate the rain it is going to ruin my walk” Add the BUT-POSITIVE to it, “I hate the rain it’s going to ruin my walk, BUT at least I can walk and I have my wet gear”
6. Change “HAVE TO” to “GET TO”
“I have to collect the kids” change it to “I get to pick up the kids”. It just changes how the body responds to the words. The “have to” sounds like the complaining voice and remember how that will affect your brain. You will feel much better too the more you focus on the positive. It will be a little awkward at first and it will take practice, but it will be worth it.