Most people complain at some stage or another about life’s trials and tribulations, whether they be negative experiences of the past or perhaps ongoing issues in the present. In fact some people can become persistent complainers and struggle to get through a conversation without talking about all the issues they are facing. Now, it can make us feel better to have a good old winge occasionally, but like most things in life too much of it is not good for us.

Like most of us I know a thing or two about complaining and its effects on me and those around me. I went through a challenging 12 year period when my mother and father both developed illnesses and then passed away. To say I handled this badly would be a massive understatement. I lacked the ability to get what happened into perspective, and along with a profoundly negative mindset, I also became a hoarder of complaints. I tended to find fault in everything. Petrol was too expensive, co-workers impossible to work with, partners were unbearable – and it was always someone else’s fault. It’s fair to say that I wasn’t too happy in my own skin and not much fun to be around.

While this lesson remains a difficult one to learn, I’m happy to say that I have come through this terrible period stronger and wiser. I’m now able to see that on the whole, my life was good and that it was my mindset, rather than my reality, which was the issue.

So having reflected on the lessons I’ve learnt and the effects it had on myself and others, here are a few tricks to prevent you from turning difficult experiences into persistent complaints, and constantly finding fault in ourselves and others:

Complaining has its place
Firstly, sometimes we need to complain in a constructive manner in order to create meaningful action. At times highlighting problems can be justified and reasonable. However, if  action is not possible then by persistently complaining you will simply be creating unnecessary negative energy and stress.  We also know from neuroscience that consistently discussing negative events strengthens these neural pathways and changes our brains to our detriment.[1] So try and make sure this type of complaining has a purpose and that you only do so when it will lead to something positive as a result.  Its also a good idea to start with highlighting the things that are working before launching into the problem areas. Don’t get personal, stay focused on the issue, and finish on a positive note.

So don’t give your complaints the ‘air time’ they need to become a problem for you. Become aware of the niggle and how it makes you feel when you focus on it.Then try techniques for redirecting the thought. A trick we use at Happy Ground Wellbeing is to wear a rubber band on your wrist – when you have a negative thought, flick the band and change your mental direction (sing, skip, think of a beach! Anything to redirect the thought and reduce the effect it has on you). This really does work. Over time your wrist will become less red too 🙂

Getting control in to perspective
There are things that we have control over and things we don’t. For instance, we can control where we live, our attitude and enthusiasm, what we read, and the places we travel to. And then there are the things we can’t control. Now common sense tells us that trying to control the things we can’t (and complaining about them!) will only lead to suffering and a whole lot of wasted energy! Can you do anything about it? No? Then learn to accept it, let it go, and move on.

Focus on the positive
Each new day is a clean slate and so it is important each day to choose who you are going to do your very best to be. At the end of the day it is also helpful to make a note of three (or more) things that you are grateful for. Anything! A compliment, a sunny day, a delicious dinner. Over time this can lift your mood, creating positive feelings and reduced stress and anxiety.

Limit time with persistent complainers
We don’t want to seem anti-social but in general you need two to do the grumble-tango. We can also have an inclination to mimic the behaviour of those we spend a lot of time with. As you become more aware of your persistent complaints you will find yourself noticing others with similar tendencies. It might be time to reduce the time you spend with these people and spend more time with those who enhance your life rather than those who deplete you.

All things come to an end 
I don’t mean to sound callous or lacking in empathy, but we must accept that all good (and bad) things will eventually come to an end. Buddhists refer to it as impermanence, and it’s as sure as the sun will come up and go down. Fighting life and complaining about the changing nature of things will only make us suffer. It’s much better to be grateful and accept what is, rather than what could have been.

Meditate 
Body scans, guided visualisations and (my personal favourite) heart meditation, can all relax the body and calm a busy mind. Over time you should notice the number and intensity of complaints and negative thoughts in your head will be reduced. So, while we all have some complaints in our life they do not have to have power over us. You have the ability to change the way you see yourself, your life, and how others perceive you. Meditation helps with this.

By thinking about these tips and apply them regularly, eventually you will feel calmer and have more head space to focus on what is good in your life. By ridding yourself of persistent complaints, you will  keep conversations positive and your life will be happier.

Have a fantastic day,

Ivan


[1] Susan Reynolds, ‘Happy Brain, Happy Life’, Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prime-your-gray-cells/201108/happy-brain-happy-life