Complaining is the expression of dissatisfaction or annoyance about something.  We all complain at times.  In fact, research states the average person complains 30 times each day.  There is a tremendous difference between making an occasional complaint and living your life as a constant over complainer.  Are you surprised to learn that studies show people who complain on a consistent basis are more likely to have poor health, poor work performance, and less satisfying relationships? 

When you complain constantly, your body releases higher levels of the hormone cortisol. Think of cortisol as nature’s built-in alarm system.  It’s your body’s main stress hormone. It works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood, motivation, and fear.  It’s best known for helping fuel your body’s “fight-or-flight” instinct in a crisis.  Too much cortisol frequently flooding your system puts you at increased risk for high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and strokes.

Habitual complaining also affects your brain neurons, which branch out to each other to make transferring information easier.  This process is increased through repeating behaviors, such as complaining.  Therefore, the more you complain, your brain makes it easier for you to complain more without even realizing you are doing it. According to research from Stanford University, constant complaining also shrinks your hippocampus – an area of the brain that is critical to problem solving and intelligent thought.

Lastly, over complainers attract other over complainers, and they push away people who prefer not to surround themselves with people who display this toxic habit.

Why do people over complain?  Many people do not realize how often they complain because they have adopted their poor attitude as a daily habit and their complaining grows through its repetition.  Many people believe complaining is a good conversation starter because it is simple to find common ground by complaining about circumstances or other people.  By in large, most people complain because they are looking for some type of validation or to avoid responsibility.

How often do you complain?  Would you like to complain less?  If so, apply these 8 tips to change your perspective.

  1. Define the “why” behind your complaint: Prior to complaining, define what is really bothering you and why.  Is there a valid reason for the complaint?  Or are you complaining merely for the sake of complaining? If it is not valid, let it go.  The only people who like over complainers are other over complainers.  Stop it!
  2. Accept responsibility and take action: If something is bothering you take responsibility and own the problem!  Either fix it or accept that nothing can be done right now.  Complaining is a passive activity.  Change your complaining into action to solve the problem or simply accept it and give your mind something else to focus on.  Believe it or not, there are ways to complain constructively. This is when you take action towards what’s bothering you.  
  3. Identify the silver lining: All problems, trials, or frustrations have positive attributes if you search deep enough.  What can you learn from the situation?  How can you grow stronger because of the challenge?  How can you choose a positive mindset to address the situation as opposed to a negative mindset?  
  4. Create a gratitude list: A powerful tool for creating a positive mindset is practicing gratitude daily.  Creating and regularly reviewing a simple list highlighting the many blessings, small everyday joys, and amazing people in your life will help train your brain to focus on positivity and gratitude.
  5. Replace weak thoughts with strong thoughts: You can engage in thought-stopping when the urge to complain occurs. Whenever you have a negative thought pop up in your head, visualize a stop sign, and then replace the negative thought with a positive thought.  The next time you think something is unfair, replace your victim mentality with a thought about how you will overcome the setback.  “This isn’t fair” is easliy overcome with “This is how I will choose to address the challenge.”
  6. Train yourself to be less judgmental: Do you complain about others because you think they are not up to your standards?  Once you stop judging people without knowing their stories, you will likely complain less about other people’s actions because you understand the simple truth that you only know part of their story.  Seeking a greater perspective to understand the why behind other people’s actions is a powerful tool.
  7. Remove yourself from negative situations and toxic people: One of the most effective ways to reduce complaining is by removing yourself from stressful situations and toxic people. Surely, you’re familiar with the expression “misery loves company.”  Evaluate the people you spend your time with daily.  If you are hanging out with negative people who constantly whine or bring you down, you will likely start mirroring those traits. Replace toxic relationships with people that are positive and supportive.
  8. Challenge yourself: Are you able to go an entire day without complaining? How about a week?  What about a month?  Create a challenge and ask a friend to join as an accountability partner.  This isn’t a time to beat yourself up if you fall short.  If you can’t make a day or even an hour, remind yourself that this is a habit that has been ingrained in your mind for years and real change takes time and commitment. The important takeaway is that you recognize a complaint when it occurs, you identify the coping mechanism, and then you shift your brain to a more positive outlook, and you take action to address the circumstance, or you simply ignore it.  If you are a person of faith, pray consistently, and ask for the strength to endure and change the way you behave.

How will complaining less benefit your life?