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Complaining Is Bad For Your Health

Granted, we all complain about one thing or the other almost on a daily basis. Just this morning there are complaints all over Gaborone and surrounding areas that last nightís rains were a real nuisance, yes the rain we have been praying for the whole year.

Our knees bear testimonies to the praying, we have been praying, no, begging for rains. So it rained heavily for the past two days and last night a guy with a vengeance was on duty in rain heaven because this round of rains left a trail of destruction on its path. Trees have been uprooted, some ended up on rooftops, brought down walls, fell in the middle of street while for some, they buried cars underneath.

One would think by now the streets would be filled with people celebrating the rains. Not a chance, complaints all round. I may have missed the memo, but I don’t ever recall us being specific about the kind of rains we wanted. All I know is,  we agreed that only floods could save us.

Research shows that most people complain once a minute during a typical conversation. Everyone will agree with me when I say that complaining feels good, but like many other things that are enjoyable, such as smoking or eating fat cakes everyday for breakfast — complaining isn’t good for you.

According to experts, even for lazy people, our brain loves efficiency. It is said that when you repeat a behaviour such as complaining, your neurons branch out to each other to ease the flow of information. This makes it much easier to repeat that behaviour in the future — so easy, in fact, that you might not even realise you’re doing it. So as we complain about the rain, BPC, (even this other cell phone company that is notorious for ‘delayed’ service), should rewire our brains to make future complaining more likely. Over time, one soon finds it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around them.

And now the kicker: complaining damages other areas of your brain as well. Complaining, the more learned tell us, shrinks the hippocampus — an area of the brain that’s critical to problem-solving and intelligent thought. Damage to the hippocampus is scary; especially when you consider all the stress and challenges we go through daily.


It is Not Just You…

Since human beings are inherently social, our brains naturally and unconsciously mimic the moods of those around us, particularly people we

spend a great deal of time with. This process is called neuronal mirroring, and it’s the basis for our ability to feel empathy. The flip side, however, is that it makes complaining a lot like smoking — you don’t have to do it yourself to suffer the ill-effects. You need to be cautious about spending time with people who complain about everything. Complainers want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. Think of it this way: If a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers.


The solution to complaining

There are two things you can do when you feel the need to complain. One is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. That is, when you feel like complaining, shift your attention to something that you’re grateful for, like your little achievements, even that sink you unblocked without the help of a plumber in the morning, well mostly because you could not afford to pay or even call a plumber in the first place. Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the right thing to do. It reduces the stress hormone cortisol by up to 23%! So any time you experience negative or pessimistic thoughts, use this as a cue to shift gears and to think about something positive. In time, a positive attitude will become a way of life.


Start with something positive

It may seem counter-intuitive to start a complaint with a compliment, but starting with a positive helps keep the other person from getting defensive.


Be specific

When you’re complaining it’s not a good time to dredge up every minor annoyance from the past 20 years. Just address the current situation and be as specific as possible. Instead of saying, “Your employee was rude to me,” describe specifically what the employee did that seemed rude.


End on a positive

If you end your complaint with, “I’m never shopping here again,” the person who’s listening has no motivation to act on your complaint. In that case, you’re just venting.  Restate your purpose, or better still, don’t complain at all!

(Additional info by Dr. Bradberry)

Tumy on Monday



DPP Botswana

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