My hands hurt from typing. It's such a dreary day. I have dog hair on my keyboard. I can't believe there's no chocolate in the house.
With all that whining, I'm not sure I could've survived the Complaint/Restraint project, which invited people to try to put a lid on grumbling for an entire month. Founders Thierry Blancpain and Pieter Pelgrims had been doing a month-long no-bellyaching project for four years among friends, but this year decided to invite the whole world to join in.
"We never stay complaint-free, and that’s not the goal, either," says Blancpain. "The goal is to become more aware of how we personally communicate with the people around us, whether that’s co-workers, friends, or family. It’s about noticing when you complain and optimally catching yourself before it happens."
About 1,750 people signed up for the February project, vowing to try to stop making negative comments. The duo plans to launch the project again next year.
But, seriously, what's so bad about venting?
"Complaining makes people feel upset, depressed and helpless," says Mary Ann Mercer, Psy.D., co-author of "Spontaneous Optimism: Proven Strategies for Health, Prosperity & Happiness." "Tons of research proves that optimists (non-complainers) do vastly better than pessimists (complainers) in their emotional health, health and other areas of their lives."
Mercer points out that according to a growing body of "psycho-neuroimmunology" medical research, upbeat people are sick less often than negative people and their illnesses can run the gamut from colds to cancer.
Recent research from Stanford University, for example, found that complaining — whether you're the one grumbling or the one listening to the gripes — releases stress hormones that can hurt parts of the brain used for problem solving and other important functions.
Kind of makes you want to kick the complaint habit, doesn't it? Here are eight ways to help you stop grumbling.
If you don't know what it is, you don't really know if you're doing it. "Complaining is when you get annoyed or frustrated about a situation or problem — and voice your annoyance about it, either internally or externally," says London-based life coach Susanna Halonen, MAPP, who is also the smile behind Happyologist. So it's not a complaint to say it's cold out, but it's complaining to say, "I hate cold weather!"
Keep track of when you do complain.
Even if it's just little hash marks on a piece of paper, keep a running tally every time you complain. It may be quite eye-opening, says Halonen. "Becoming aware of how often you do it will make you more motivated to change it."
Turn negatives into positives.
"Each time you have a negative thought, immediately switch to a positive thought or solution to your woes," says Mercer. Be sure to keep track of how many times you had to switch from negative to positive. The goal, obviously, is to decrease the number of times you need to switch.
Figure out why you're complaining.
Are you whining because you have to get up and you hate getting up in the morning? Maybe there's a real reason for your irritation, says Halonen, like you didn't get enough sleep. Sometimes, just sometimes, there might be justification for your feelings and you can figure out a way to solve them. (You could go to bed earlier, for one.)
Don't hang out with complain-y people. (Photo: Concept Photo/Shutterstock)
Get away from negative people.
Mercer calls them "emotional vampires." "Emotional vampires and losers literally drain our batteries, slow us down and make us upset," she says. "Unhappy people allow 'emotional vampires' to suck their positive feelings right out of their skulls."
Change your vocabulary.
Use positive instead of negative vocabulary, suggests Mercer, who says happy people rarely use the words "try" or "but." "These two words leave people feeling hopeless and not in control of their lives," she says. "Happy people feel hopeful, and take tons of responsibility for their lives. The words ‘try’ and ‘but’ are excuses, and unhappy people have a bad case of ‘excus-itis.' Excus-itis is at the root of a complainer and whiner."
Taking a month-long complaint break might be too much of a commitment, so give yourself a shorter time frame, especially if you're motivated by pressure and deadlines, says Halonen. Remember it takes a while to change any habit. "Start by committing to a day of no complaints. Observe how you feel. Then commit to two days. Then a week. Soon you'll have killed your desire to complain at all because you realize how good it feels not to."
Make it a team effort.
Just like it helps if you have an exercise buddy, it could help to tell your friends you've decided to quit whining. "Maybe ask your partners, friends and colleagues if you complain a lot, and ask them to point it out when you do," says Halonen. "This will make you more aware of you doing it, as well as potentially pinpoint to you which situations cause you to complain the most."
Related on MNN:
- Mapping NYC's most complain-y neighborhoods
- Why noise bothers you, even if you think it doesn't
- 8 things you should never say to your boss