Ever sit with a friend, spouse or relative and talk with them about something that is heavy on your heart? You’re not looking for advice or a reaction, but you simply need to get it off your chest? You express your emotions centered around a specific topic and you’re done. You then feel satisfied like “a weight is lifted off your shoulders”, never to be revisited again. This is what’s known as venting and it’s healthy. But when we sit with that friend or spouse and go on a rant about something we don’t’ agree with or have a desire to change, we feel our blood pressure rise, we start to feel hot all over and maybe our face begins to turn red, and a headache starts and you feel like punching the wall. Continuing to ruminate and talk about the issue for days with your friend, coworker or spouse – that’s complaining.
Research has shown that, on average, people complain about once a minute during a typical conversation. How crazy is that!!! As with any task that we instruct our minds to repeat over and over again, and it doesn’t take long for your brain to pick up on the pattern and develop neural pathways specific to complaining.
Just like a musician will develop neural pathways dedicated to the specific movements and thoughts associated with playing their instrument, people who frequently complain will do the same for the act of complaining. Efficiency is a primary objective for the human brain, and it is built to make frequently-repeated tasks easier to repeat again in the future.
Habitually complaining actually rewires your brain in a way that makes it even easier and more natural to complain. Of course, this is typically followed by even more complaining, which in turn only strengthens those neural pathways making it hard to clear negativity. It’s a vicious cycle and one that can quickly get out of hand, leaving you with a negative outlook on life that can be very difficult to shake.
Negativity is the enemy of happiness and success, and these are neural pathways that you definitely don’t want your brain to be building. If you’re putting out negative thoughts into the world, you’ll continue to attract more and more negativity.
When you complain, you increase your levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Chronically high levels of cortisol can lead to a variety of health problems, including increased risk of depression, digestive problems, sleep issues, higher blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and even increased risk of heart disease. What the mind believes, the body will manifest.
If you find yourself frequently complaining, it can be a hard habit to break. To some degree, most of us already have neural pathways for complaining in place, and those pathways won’t go away on their own. Being complaint free isn’t about pretending there aren’t any challenges in our lives or in the world, however there are things that you can to do retrain your brain for positivity.
1. Realize Complaints are Harmful
Complaints don’t have to be verbalized in order to be harmful. While keeping yourself from complaining out loud might be a good start, it’s important to understand that the negative thoughts you keep to yourself can be just as damaging to your brain as those that you say out loud.
A great place to begin developing a more positive mindset is to adopt an attitude of gratitude.
Thankfulness is the direct opposite of complaining, and it’s much easier to avoid complaining when you are genuinely thankful for all of life’s blessings.
No matter who you are or where you find yourself, there are plenty of things to be grateful for. Those things can be as simple as the fresh air that you are breathing and the heartbeat in your chest. Anytime you feel yourself starting to dwell on a negative thought or complaint, pause and look around you for things to be thankful for. Pick them out, reflect on them, and inwardly express your gratitude for them. If you do this, you’ll find that negative thoughts dissolve away.
2. Surround Yourself with Positive People
We tend to mimic the thoughts and expressions of the people around us. You may have noticed before that if one person in a social group begins complaining, it won’t be long before everyone in the group is airing their own complaints. The same is true for positive thoughts too, though.
If you surround yourself with positive people, it will encourage you to exhibit a more positive attitude both when you are around them and when you are on your own.
3. Capture Every Thought with Exercises
There’s an exercise to stop complaining that’s found to be very effective. All you have to do is set aside a jar and put $2 in the jar every time you complain about something. The money you put into that jar is to remind you that complaining has a cost.
At the end of each month, contribute the money accumulated in the jar to a charity you’d like to support. It forces you to consciously realize what you are doing, which makes it easier to correct your mindset.
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