Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s topic.
My best friend Emily came over last night to hang out for a bit. We usually have so much fun together and often laugh until it hurts, but it hasn’t been that way in weeks. It seems like every time we see each other, all I do is listen to her complain about every little thing in her life. The complaints range from her date not going as expected, to her commute to work being too long, and now she’s even griping about the type of shampoo she uses! I’m trying to be supportive, but I have to admit she’s driving me insane!
Some complaining is absolutely normal. After all, we’re bound to feel at least slightly unsettled or even annoyed by different things in our lives periodically. However, we suspect that you may know a person for whom complaining is almost like an Olympic sport.
Maybe it’s the Debby-downer from work who swears the world is out to get her. You know, that person who says, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.” Or perhaps it’s the Negative Nancy in your apartment complex who can’t catch a break. Whoever it is, it’s important to understand the negative effects that chronic complaining can have on a person and the people around them.
Research has shown that complaining can really have an impact on our well-being. Rice Psychology’s licensed psychologists and mental health counselors in Tampa want to shed some light on the topic below.
Not a Good Look
To understand the effects of chronic complaining, it is helpful to first touch on the different personality traits that are associated with pessimism. That is to say, the most common types of complainers are:
- Those Who Vent – This complainer simply wants someone to listen but is not looking for advice or solutions.
- Those Who Seek Sympathy – In a complaint competition, this person has always had it worse than you.
- Those Who Complain Incessantly – This person complains often with no resolution. In fact, they’ll often become worried and anxious after complaining.
According to researcher, author, and professor of psychology at Clemson University, Robin Kowalski, Ph.D., complaining without a real purpose doesn’t encourage happiness. In fact, this “expressive” complaining causes people to focus more on their issues and can often be destructive. It can potentially push friends and family away, lead to additional anxiety, and even cause physical problems.
We may think that complaining will help us feel better, but much of the time, by focusing on things that are negative, we end up feeling more stressed. And stress, especially chronic, can lead to all sorts of problems (such as increased inflammation) and can even affect how we learn and remember things.
According to Rick Hanson, Ph.D., psychologist and Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley, chronic stress releases a hormone known as cortisol. This hormone then acts like an “acid bath” to the hippocampus, the part of the brain engaged in visual-spatial memory, which helps us process visual stimuli to understand the spatial relationships between objects. It also helps us to visualize different images and scenarios.
Give it a Break
We’ll always have things to complain about, but how can you “cut back” on the amount of complaining you do? While it can be difficult, especially for the chronic complainer, there are steps you can take to detox:
- Look on the Bright Side – Did your favorite burger joint close down? Think of the extra calories you won’t consume!
- Limit Yourself – Dr. Kowalski says giving yourself a 15-minute complaining window, where you can scream and whine as much as you want, is a step in the right direction.
- Find an Alternative – Dr. Kowalski additionally suggests that you keep a journal to release and express your complaints; it’ll help them “seem smaller.”
- Find a Solution – Wallowing won’t help resolve your issue, so why not focus your energy on trying to find a solution to it?
- Switch to Gratitude – Grab a pen and journal or open a new document on your phone to fill with things you are grateful for. Commit to jotting down three things you are grateful for every day for two weeks and you just might be amazed at the improvement in your outlook and even your relationships!
Let Us Help
At Rice Psychology Group in Tampa, we understand that sometimes it can be difficult to deal with what life throws at you. If you, or someone you love, needs help understanding their emotions or can’t seem to stop complaining, know that we’re here to help. Our goal is to help you discuss what’s going on in a comfortable setting so that, together, we can find the best solutions. For more information about our services in Tampa, contact us today.