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Home Lifestyle Spirituality Why Complaining Literally Makes You Sick. (And How To Stop It)

Why Complaining Literally Makes You Sick. (And How To Stop It)


We all do it – you know, complain about people or situations in our lives. We may call it ‘clearing our hearts’, but it all comes down to the same thing in the end. On the surface, complaining may seem harmless—perhaps even something that helps because we feel better when we let off steam. But complaining can have serious physical and mental side effects.

By Sharmini Gana

Society itself seems to encourage complaining – we complain about work and being overworked, we complain about a lack of time and that we are too busy to enjoy life, we complain about politics (a favorite past-and-present pastime for many), we complain about relatives and family issues, we complain about lack of sleep and feeling exhausted, and we love to complain when we are sick – this list goes on…

Even if we don’t complain as often ourselves (or think we don’t, although I hope this article makes you take a thorough and honest look at your own habits, as it did mine), we all know someone who incessantly complains and how exhausting it is to be around these “negative Nelly’s”.

So, how does complaining really affect us? Seen from the brain: “synapses that work together, fire together”, this is the basic principle of neuroscience. Every time you complain, you reinforce that cooperation and that makes it easier to get them fired. If you do it often enough, it can just become your regular mode. Negative thoughts attract more negative thoughts and before you know it you are in a negative spiral of negative thinking and chronic complaining.

In addition, misery likes company, so complainers often have friends who also complain, further reinforcing the pattern. Complainants also influence the people around them. Have you ever sympathized and shared your own similar experience when someone complains about something specific? It can happen easily and unintentionally to even the least complaining and most positive

Sometimes this can lead to a long conversation that only includes complaints, for example with a negative focus on politics or the fear and anger about what is happening in the world. Ask yourself: how do you feel afterwards?

Prolonged complaining leads to stress, and it is well documented that prolonged stress makes us sick: it weakens the immune system, raises blood pressure, increases the risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes, and causes a plethora of other conditions.

Scientists have known for years that elevated levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) affect learning and memory, cause a compromised immune system and lower bone density, promote weight gain and heart disease, and raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels also increase the risk of depression and mental illness, and shorten life expectancy.

How To Stop Complaining

However, as a human being you need to get down to business every now and then, so here are some tips to help you avoid complaining too much:
Take time out to cool down and take a step back from what’s bothering you so you can give your emotions some air. Try some deep breaths, go for a walk in nature, hit the gym, meditate, or do something fun or relaxing to help yourself unwind.

Write down what’s bothering you. Writing helps us better understand why we are angry and can help us see the situation with a more balanced perspective.
Take responsibility for your part in the situation; don’t just blame the other person as the culprit. What’s your lesson? What does this situation teach you? Introspection is useful for finding balance and a solution or deciding whether it is not better to let it go at that moment.

If you feel it necessary to vent, let the Listener know ahead of time so they can prepare, or let you know it’s not the right time.

Keep it short – this is very important, as we humans tend to make whole stories when we’re groaning and moaning. It’s best to limit what you want to share to under 2 minutes to avoid drama and not dump our problems on the other person. Ask your listener to step in and stop you kindly but clearly if you go over the 2 minutes — you’ll both be grateful for that.
Remember that complaining affects your energy, mood, brain activity and stress levels. If you still want to let off steam, keep it nice and short, better for everyone, especially for yourself.

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