Everyone complains about something every now and then – it is in our nature to want things we can’t have, have to attend things we don’t want to attend, and yes, even to hit the gym when we would rather watch a show on Netflix with a bag of chips. Complaints are different for everyone, and some people complain more than others (be honest, you know who you are!). But, apart from really not getting anyone anywhere, did you know that complaining itself is actually really bad for you? That’s right – according to scientific studies, researchers have found that complaining is actually bad for your brain, and overall mental health.
Why Is It So Bad?
Aside from being unpleasant to the people actually listening to our complaints, when we complain, our own negativity actually gets to our psyche more than we realize. Whether you’re the one doing the complaining, or listening to someone complain, studies have shown that just a half hour of complaining can actually cause damage to your brain, masking the part of your brain that solves problems with negativity. Needless to say, if you are complaining and you can’t solve your problems, you are probably not getting anywhere.
It Is A Repeating Cycle
When there is something that you are frustrated about, how many people do you talk to about it? Chances are, more than one. Complaining about a gripe to one person might not be so bad, but when it becomes two, three, or even ten people, the wear and tear from complaining on our brains and bodies can really have negative effects. Again, it causes distress to our brains, but the repeating pattern can actually cause a build-up in our bodies of cortisol, which is a hormone that is directly linked to stress. Too much stress can cause major health problems in our bodies, including weight gain, lack of sleep, and even depression!
We Complain The Wrong Way
Believe it or not, there is a right way, and a wrong way to complain – unfortunately, most of us do it the wrong way 99% of the time. Guy Winch, from Stanford University, is one of the main characters behind this study of complaining and our brains, and he says there are several steps to take when it comes to complaining ‘correctly,’ including:
- Every complaint should have a purpose behind it
- Every complaint should start with a positive statement
- Every complaint should be simple, and brief
- Every complaint should end with a positive statement
- Every complainer should consider who they are complaining to
Now, it might not be easy to take all of these steps into consideration if there is something really bugging you that you would just love to complain about, but they are important ways to take a step back and dig deeper into why you might be complaining in the first place. If you can do it the right way, it could become more beneficial, and less harmful to you. Doctor Winch’s final piece of advice on complaining? Let it go!
Again, all of us complain from time to time, but we might not realize what it is actually doing to our bodies, and our overall health. It is not always easy to take a step back from a negative situation and really think about how you can communicate your frustrations in a more productive way, but according to this latest research, it’s one of the most important things you can do for your brain’s health. The next time you feel like complaining about something that’s really getting on your nerves, try considering how to complain ‘properly,’ take a breath, pause, and construct your complaint in such a way that will actually move you forward, instead of getting you stuck in a vicious cycle.