Mental Health

Why You Need to Stop Complaining (And How You Can Break The Habit)

I was recently doing an inventory of the people in my life. This is occasionally something that I’ve done for years now since people come and go in our lives. It’s difficult to maintain the same friendship when someone has a full-time job, a family, and moved across the country.

But, those aren’t the types of relationships that I question. It’s toxic relationships. The people who are negative and only bring you down. And, the people who always complain.

Of course, you can’t always eliminate these people from your life. Some of them may be immediate family members. You can, however, set boundaries and maybe don’t contact them as frequently. Or, steer the conversation somewhere else to something more positive. And, instead of letting them be your soundboard, offer possible solutions or encourage them to brainstorm so that they can come up with their own resolution — this works especially well with children.

Why You Should Stop Complaining

Even if you know how to cope with chronic complainers, we also fall into this trip. It could be as something as innocent sounding as “I’m so busy I haven’t even had a chance to shower today!” to always gripping about your career, spouse, or how you’re stricken with bad luck.

Sometimes complaining can make you feel better. And, for some of us, it may even be useful. There are actually active complainers. They may vent about how a co-worker stole credit for their idea. But, they won’t go on and on about it., Instead, they’re aware of the situation and will find ways to improve the situation.

Then there are the ineffective complainers. These are the people who always see the glass as half-empty but want to anything to feel the glass back up. No one wants to be around these type of people. And, constantly complaining rewires your brain for negativity. Some have even gone as far as to say that complaining can literally kill you.

Additionally, complaining triggers anxiety and depression. It also doesn’t solve the problem. And, a lot of the times, it only magnifies the issue and makes things worse.

Some of you may believe that you aren’t actually complaining. You’re just letting everyone else know how busy you are. This is actually practically considered a status symbol these days. But, it’s still complaining. “When you complain—or humble brag—about how much you’ve got going on, it’s become a marker of how important you are,” says Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. “It’s so accepted these days, it’s almost automatic.”

How You Can Stop Complaining

Even if it’s not intentional, complaining is terrible for your health and relationships. It also doesn’t make anything better. So, how can you stop complaining?

To begin with, identify what’s really bothering you. Is there a valid reason for why you’re angry, frustrated, or sad? Or, are you just complaining to complain? Once you’ve determined the root cause, you can start monitoring and tracking your complaints to see how often they are and what sets them off. For example, if you feel that you aren’t getting enough quality time with your family, then you need to evaluate your work situation and come up with solutions like setting hard working hours or asking for a flex schedule.

You should also start removing yourself from negative people and environments. This is probably why you’re complaining in the first place. Get them out of your life and I bet you’ll start complaining less.

Most importantly, focus on solutions. Whining about a specific situation or person isn’t going to make it go away. It’s still going to be there tomorrow and the next day and the next. The only way to make it stop is by taking action. One way to do this is to complain effectively by focusing on your feeling, not facts; talking through what’s frustrating you; leading with how you feel; and placing your complaint between two positives.

If those suggestions don’t work, here’s a couple more to try out;

  • Seek a silver lining. “Reframe things in a way that gets a more positive feeling,” says Andy Cope, coauthor of Be Brilliant Everyday. For example, rather than moaning about your partner moving your stuff around, think how neat the house looks.
  • The Rubber Band Technique. This will change your behavior through conditioning. Put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it back whenever you start complaining.
  • Set a time limit. “Give yourself, say, 15 minutes, and complain as much as you want,” says Robin Kowalski, Ph.D., author and professor of psychology at Clemson University. “Vent, scream, yell. And then you’re done.”
  • Be more mindful and grateful. Become more present through meditation and yoga. And, write down everything that you’re grateful for. Both put things in a different perspective.
  • Become less judgemental, a little more confrontational. Replace loaded phrases like “should,” “could of,” and “would of” with compliments. Also, when you’re really bothered by injustice, speak up and say something. It’s not complaining. It’s sharing your feelings constructively.

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