Dr. Rachell N. Anderson
Have you ever listened to the conversations of people around you and found the content was filled with massive complaints and whining? If so, you’ve noticed that you had a visceral and emotional response. That’s because complaining is bad for you. Whether you are the complainer or the listener, complaining has many destructive and few redeeming qualities. If you pay attention, you may be amazed at how much negativity you absorb on a daily basis, not just in public or in the media, but at home, at work, everywhere. I believe what we are exposed to impacts our thinking, feelings and behaviours. So, if you are surrounded by negativity, you will be more negative.
Psychologists have known for decades that the brain has a “negativity bias”. That means we have a tendency pay more attention to negative things than positive ones and our reactions to negative things are more intense. Listening to too much
complaining actually destroys brain cells. Listening to just 30 minutes of negativity—in person or on television—can damage neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for problem solving. Also, we are more likely to remember negative things than positive ones. Being in the presence of negative people makes us negative and produces the same emotional reaction in the brain as does stress, the kind that is not good for your health.
Have you wondered what was the purpose of this whining and complaining? Sometimes, we use complaints as a conversation starter. One person start with a complaint and others chime in with one of their own. These types of conversations are likely to last longer than those with positive content. And though they may make you feel better to be in shared company, it keeps you from facing problems and finding a solutions.
Complaining can also be an attention getter. People listen when we complain. But complaining can become a habit, demanding that you complain to anyone around you. While some people may join you in the victim role, others will avoid you because your negativity makes you not good company. People also avoid you because listening to you is depressing. Too, people who chronically complain talk, rarely listen. They take as much of your time as you give them and reject any problem solving advice that you may offer. People who complain are less likely to enjoy life, have few friends, and are less likely to come up with new ideas, as they are busy finding faults and discourage others
from trying new things as they feel that it wouldn't work. When you spend time with people who constantly complain, you are likely to view things in a negative light. However, Psychologists know that positive attitude makes everything in life better and more successful.
What’s a Person to Do?
1. Remember, complaining has detrimental affects the body, mind and spirit. Stop it. Teach yourself a different way of reacting.
2. Let go of the victim role. When you blame others you give them power over you and it’s power you lose and cannot use to make things better.
3. Rather than complain, count your blessings. These two thoughts cannot occupy your mind at the same time. It’s physiologically impossible to be negative and thankful at the same time. Look around, there’s plenty for which to be grateful.
4. Catch others doing good. Instead of complaining about what others are doing wrong, focus on what they are doing right and give them recognition for it. If you’re the boss, give instructions rather that criticism.
5. Take leave. (Unless you’re the Psychologist: We are paid to listen. Believe me, it’s not easy work.) When you are faced with people who are negative, whine and complain, stop, be still, and take leave and remember these words from the wise. “Do not listen to those who weep and complain, for their disease is contagious.” ~Og Mandino. Or the words of Anthony J. D'Angelo. “If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it.”
Dr. Rachell Anderson is a native of Tunica, a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a Private Clinical Practice in Springfield, Illinois for many years. She now lives and writes in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles and books.