“Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is call whining.” Theodore Roosevelt
A recent survey found that the average person complains about three times a day. And less than half of the people believe they could go a whole day without one single complaint. We all complain about things from time to time and some more than others. Similar to emotions being contagious, complaining can also go around! Whether you are the one who frequently complains or listens to other people complain, it’s important to understand the impact of complaining to start making changes. Here are some reasons why you need to get your complaining in check:
1. According to the Harvard Business Review, “through repetition of bad, sad, mad, and powerless feelings, the neurotransmitters in the brain can go through a neural “rewiring,” which reinforces negative thought patterns, making it easier for unhappy thoughts to repeat themselves.” Basically, every time you complain your brain rewires itself and makes it more likely for that reaction to occur again. Who wants to be stuck in a cycle of negative thinking?
2. Research from Stanford University has shown that consistent complaining shrinks the hippocampus in the brain -- the area that’s critical for problem-solving and intelligent thought. A smaller hippocampus leads to a decline in memory.
3. When you complain, your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol. The release of cortisol shifts your body into survival mode once the fight or flight is activated. According to Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.’s article How Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity, “All the extra cortisol released by frequent complaining impairs your immune system and makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It even makes your brain more vulnerable to strokes.”
4. Complaining is not only contagious but can also negatively impact a person’s support system. If you’re a chronic complainer, you may find your friends/family join in and adopt the habit as well or pull away because they don’t like the toxicity in their life. Either way, you lose.
In summary, while chronic complaining causes people to think negatively, brings down mood, impacts brain & physical functioning-just like most things in life-it’s not all bad. A little bit of complaining to blow off steam or that leads to positive change can be satisfying. When you find yourself sitting in the negativity too long, it becomes problematic, and it’s time to make a change. Counseling is a great way to practice more productive thinking. Just like your brain can rewire itself for the worse, you can retrain it for the better. Remember, you’re the company you keep -- stop complaining and come hang with us at A Little Counseling. 😉