Do you have a problem with complaining? I know I do! My kids recently had a play date and after it was over, I couldn’t help but beat myself. Why? Because I complained the entire time. I complained about my husband, my kids, the local park, and even our awesome playground. I know I’m not the only complainer out there, but I hope someday to be a “reformed complainer” instead of an active one.
Why Do We Complain?
There are a ton of reasons we complain, but ultimately I think it boils down to two reasons, neither of which are very profitable.
1. We Want Sympathy
For some reason, in the mind of a complainer, we think the more we complain, the more people will listen because they “feel sorry for us.” Or maybe just because they don’t want us to complain about them.
2. It’s A Habit
I think this is the main thing for me. When I was in a very bad mental state, I had a very hard time seeing the good in the world, so almost everything I said came out as a complaint. Over time, even when I do see the good, I formed the habit of complaining and that is one that is very hard to break.
Why Should We Learn Not To Complain
Do you know complaining isn’t good for us? It does absolutely nothing to help, but it does a lot to hurt.
1. People Don’t Want To Be Friends With Complainers
No one likes someone who is always upset over something. They know if you’re never content, it means you will complain about them to others. Therefore, forming and maintaining friendships is very difficult for a complainer.
2. Complaining Rewires Your Brain
According to Entrepreneur constant complaining actually causes the neurons in your brain to form bridges, hence re-wiring itself to make complaining come easier. So, the more you complain, the more you are making yourself complain.
Worse than that, when your brain is wired to complain, your brain starts looking for things to complain about. Guess what that means? Rather than seeing the good in life, you look to find the negative and that will steal your joy faster than anything.
3. Complaining Can Raise Blood Pressure
According to the same above source, complaining can cause the release of cortisol which is responsible for high blood pressure.
How Do I Stop Complaining?
If your brain has already been wired to complain, don’t fret! You can re-wire it again! No, it isn’t easy and no, you’re not going to be perfect, but here are some suggestions on ways you can take control of your complaining mind and make it throw out some positive encouragement instead.
1. Write Things Down
I know, I talk a lot about writing, but it’s because it helps me so much! For complaining, I have started physically writing down a list of five GOOD things. I write them each in full sentences and think about them carefully before I write them. I also make sure the good things end with a period and do not have the word “but” in them.
Here are a few examples:
- I loved swimming with my kids at the pool today!
- Watching my dog run laps around the house was hilarious!
- I am so thankful my husband did the laundry for me today!
2. Set An Alarm
Yep, I know this sounds crazy, but if you’re going to rewire your brain, it HAS to be intentional. So get out your smart phone and set an alarm for whatever time you want. When it goes off, find someone to say something good to. It can be something from your written list or it can be something completely off the wall. But consider one sentence and share it with someone else. Then continue with a normal conversation.
The hardest part of this one is remembering, whatever you’re happy about CANNOT be followed by a “but statement.” Now, if my kids were reading this they would bust out laughing because I’m talking about “butts” but anyways…
Here is what I mean by a “but statement”; “It was so awesome that my husband did the laundry today, BUT he totally ruined my favorite shirt.” The reason this doesn’t work, is because “but statements” are still complaining. It is still allowing you into that negative mindset.
To be honest, when I first started doing this, it felt so weird to just say good things. And I know that sounds crazy! But when you are so used to complaining, doing the opposite is really different. But it’s a good different.
3. Ask For Help
Changing habits is hard because sometimes we don’t even realize what we’re doing. This is where a good support person comes in. Ask someone you love, respect, and spend a lot of time with, to keep you accountable. Ask them to let you know when you’re complaining too much. Kids are GREAT at this one!
4. Say, “Thank You.”
Expressing gratitude is a great way, not just to stop complaining, but to express love to those closest to us. Make it a habit every day, to specifically, genuinely thank each family member individually. I don’t mean, “Hey, thanks,” and walk away. I mean, go pick up your two year old, set her on your lap and say, “Thank you so much for helping me pick up your toys today! You are an awesome helper!”
For some reason, I have a much easier time doing this with kids than with my husband. It just doesn’t come as naturally, but I believe it may be even more important. Just a statement like, “I saw you took the trash out for me tonight. I really do appreciate that,” can mean the world to him. And his smile means a lot to me too.
5. Intentionally Look For Good Things
Following all of these steps are going to help you with this one, but they’re not going to do it for you. You will have to make a constant effort to see the good in things. The more good you see, the easier it will be for you to say it out loud.
There’s a Daniel Tiger song that says, “When something seems bad, turn it around, and find something good!” I can’t internalize that enough. So the next time your toddler dumps the flour all over the floor, instead of thinking, “I can’t believe I have to clean up this awful mess,” take a deep breath and say, “I’m so glad I have what I need to clean this up and we still have flour left.”
6. Remember That Good Old Phrase
If all else fails, remember what your parents taught you, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” It’s hard to do, but the next time you feel yourself about to complain, just stop. Say nothing. Let the neurotransmitters of your brain know that you won’t allow yourself to say those words.
Do you know someone who complains all the time? Are you one of those people? Let me know in the comments below!