Attention All Complainers!
For Canadian Thanksgiving this coming weekend, I decided to do something different. Instead of discussing thankfulness and gratitude (which we will come to), I decided to talk about the other end of the spectrum.
Let’s give you the science immediately.
Not only do repeated negative thoughts make it easier to think yet more negative thoughts, they also make it more likely that negative thoughts will occur to you just randomly walking down the street. (Another way to put this is that being consistently negative starts to push your personality towards the negative). Through repetition of thought, you’ve brought the pair of synapses that represent your [negative] proclivities closer and closer together, and when the moment arises for you to form a thought…the thought that wins is the one that has less distance to travel, the one that will create a bridge between synapses fastest.” (Steven Parton, Scientist)
Yah, really. It’s no joke when science says that complaining is bad for our health.
And before we go any further, on a related note, I created a meditation for calm for Thanksgiving weekend, and if you feel like you could use some techniques to relax, I’ve got you.
Alright, back to complaining.
I knew someone, actually someone I used to work with, who complained about EVERYTHING. Freakin’ everything! About the unfairness of her being given the worst clients to handle, to having the worst behaved child in the world, to having the most unsupportive husband, and the list went on an on. I can complain with the best of ’em, but I’m telling you, I felt like Miss Susie Sunshine. The truth is, no one likes to be around a complainer, except well, maybe, other complainers.
Now, we all complain. Hell, it’s normal! But I would like to ask you a question now, if I may… HOW OFTEN do you complain? If you don’t know the answer, ask those around you to shed some light. How about your husband, your friends, your co-workers. I’m sure they’ll have a wealth of knowledge to share with you. And I’m sure once you ask, they won’t hold back.
Hear me out– by complaining, I don’t mean when you share your problems with someone and are genuinely looking for solutions and ways to improve. No, this is GOOD! I’m also not talking about where you candidly discuss failures or disappointments you’ve experienced. We all need a shoulder to cry on, a trusted confidante, so this is not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about a different kind of complaining. I’m talking Fran Drescher on The Nanny! Remember that show? Now, I’m showing my age! These are the people (some I know well), that are ALWAYS complaining, something like, “This place is terrible,” “I have a bad headache,” “I can’t make a decision,” “I think I have diverticulitis,” “The weather is so bad all the time,” “The service here is always slow,” “This wart on my foot just won’t go away!” It’s the kind of complaining and whining whereby it’s always the same recording with this person. It’s the someone you tell that your child had the flu and threw up 9 times in 1 hour, and they reply with a, “You think YOU had it bad? When my daughter had the flu, she threw up 15 times in an hour and we ended up in the hospital on an IV!” It’s always a one-up-man-ship, and they always have it worse.
Know anyone like this? Are you this person? Ever heard this quote? You gotta laugh!
“Never tell your problems to anyone…20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.”
— Lou Holtz
So, if it’s you who is stuck in this vicious complaining circle, decide that it’s Thanksgiving, a time to be grateful, and a time for change.
Here are some tips to stop the whining:
- Instead of complaining, focus your attention and energy on problem SOLVING, rather than problem creating. For example, instead of complaining how exhausted you are, try and get to bed earlier and learn how to start saying no (comes with learning about boundaries). Instead of telling people how overweight you feel, try and make the effort to start making some time for a movement regime.
- Every time you’re about to speak and it feels likes a whine or complaint is about to come out, stop, and think again about what and how you’re going to say that thought. Think: is there any point to saying that? I mean, is there really a point to complain about something you have zero control over, like the weather or the bad traffic? It’s futile when you think about it. We can’t complain about what we can’t control. People also like to be around POSITIVE people, not negative ones.
- Learn how to speak less, and listen more. G-d gave us two ears and one mouth, I’m pretty sure for a reason. We should get the memo. How about the words you do speak today, test yourself and tell yourself, I will try and not complain for the next week and see how I feel. When you actually rid those negative words from your mouth, you’ll rid the negative energy from your body.
- Think about the misfortunes that exist in our world. Think about the injustices of the world, child slavery, young children with cancer, what COVID has done to the world. It might help put things in your own life into perspective. I once wrote a blog post on gratitude. Be grateful for what you DO have right now. Let’e be grateful for what IS working.
- Think about WHY you complain. Think about the time you could be spending improving your life. If the service is slow at a restaurant I’m eating at (in non-COVID times of course), my husband goes crazy, but I get up, and grab the water pitcher and serve myself if I’m thirsty. If the kids need napkins too, I get up and ask someone for some. It’s too easy to complain that people are incompetent, and much harder to do something about it. Think personal responsibility. When we complain, we give our power over to someone else and deny responsibility. Should we hand our power over, or allow responsibility into our life? It’s all a choice.
So friends, we all complain. We’re all tired. We’re all stressed, especially these days. We’re all trying to make a living. All of our partners are sometimes unappreciative of us. All of our kids complain about the food. We all have shit. But let’s try and not complain too much. I’m gonna try harder too. That’s a promise.
On a related topic, here is a quote that resonated for me just in time for Thanksgiving. I hope it speaks to you too.
Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers. I wish you lots of turkey, lots of love, lots of health and safety, lots of gratitude, lots of happiness.