On average, each of us complains – about life, people, circumstances, ourselves – up to 15-30 times a day. But most often we do not even notice it. What does this habit lead to and how can we get rid of it?
Sofia is always complaining about everything from politics to the supermarket’s product range, and her husband can’t take it anymore. “I express my dissatisfaction because I’m upset about something, he gets annoyed, I get even more upset, we fight… and so on,” she tells her family therapist.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT
The constant expression of dissatisfaction not only disturbs peace in the family, but also threatens the health of the complainer. A Stanford University study found that endless complaining leads to a decrease in the volume of the hippocampus, the area of the brain largely responsible for decision-making and memory. Incidentally, Alzheimer’s disease also reduces the volume of the hippocampus.
When we complain, our cortisol levels rise, followed by blood pressure and blood sugar levels. In the long run, this can lead to heart disease and diabetes.
As for the short-term and obvious effect, constant complaining eats away at relationships between partners, even those that are otherwise quite happy, says Gwendolyn Seidman, associate professor of psychology at Albright College (Pennsylvania, USA). “Complaints can be very annoying to the person who has to listen to them, especially if the one complaining does nothing to resolve the problem and does not accept help or advice from a partner,” she explains.
The psychologist reminds us that negative events always leave a stronger impression than positive ones. “Figuratively speaking, losing $20 is perceived much more emotionally than winning $20,” she says. – This is true for couple relationships as well.”
Research shows that it takes at least five positive events to make up for one unpleasant episode (such as hurtful words or criticism)
Any negativity drains energy and depletes us, adds Susan Heitler, a Denver-based practicing psychologist and author of The Power of Two. Plus, the habit of complaining is contagious. If one partner is prone to it, it’s very likely that the other will sooner or later start grousing, too.
If you try to offer a positive view of the situation, this can lead to conflict: the partner feels that he or she is not being heard or supported. How to react then? The best option, according to the expert, is to stick to the formula “Yes… and at the same time…” This way you show that you hear your partner and at the same time offer an alternative view of things.
WHAT TO DO
It would seem to follow from all this that in family life it is better to avoid any complaints at all. But this is not true: a complaint is not the same as a complaint. It can be useful, constructive and further strengthen the bond between partners, says family therapist Adam Smithy.
For example, when you are mad about the behaviour of the boss, you are very supported by the idea that you can share feelings with a partnerv
Similarly, it’s a relief to be able to share your worries about disturbing political news with a loved one. “Few things are as important in a relationship as knowing that our partner is always there to comfort and help us, that we can trust them,” notes Adam Smithee.
1. Listen to loved ones
Of course, this is also true for relationships with other family members. Anna complained incessantly about life until one day her eight-year-old son said that he could no longer bear to hear her complain about anything. Those words struck her. “I said to myself, ‘That’s enough,'” she recalls two years later. – I had to learn to be more upbeat and positive. Not to pretend I was different, but to really change. And it has improved my relationship with my son. Now I know how to encourage him.
2. Seek a solution to the problem
“We need to learn to discuss a problem directly with the person on whom the solution depends, and to do so kindly and tactfully,” writes Priest Will Bowen, author of the best-selling book A World Without Complaints, with conviction.
In some cases, the solution depends on ourselves. For example, if the boss is always late for meetings, while demanding that employees come on time, we can take a laptop to meetings and work, instead of wasting time waiting for the boss.
3. Break the habit
Complaining dozens of times a day, people only “let off steam” without trying to solve their problems. The expert urges to completely get rid of the habit of whining. A few years ago, he suggested an effective way to increase self-control: wear a purple bracelet, which should be put on the other hand, catching yourself whining. The goal is to keep it on for 21 days. As it turns out, coping with it is very difficult at first.
“For the first week, you’ll be re-hanging the bracelet 10-20 times every day. After a month, it will be held on your arm for a day or two, the further you go, the longer,” he writes. – Many people think they’re not complaining at all and that they’re definitely positive thinkers. But that’s only until they start wearing the bracelet themselves!”
Will Bowen himself managed to “go the distance” after only three months, most people need about five to achieve results
The method has many followers: about 11 million purple bracelets have been sold in more than 180 countries. And it’s all because when we learn to track negative thoughts and consciously abandon them, long-awaited positive changes come into our lives. At least, that’s what Will Bowen promises.