Whether it’s work stress, bossy in-laws, a knee injury …. complaining can be cathartic. While blowing off some verbal steam may provide temporary relief, it does not improve or change a situation. In fact, airing your grievances and “going negative” may do more harm that good.
In addition to spreading negative energy, it can impact our outlook on life as well as our mental health. Every time we give voice to negative thoughts (and we spend more time with our own thoughts than with anything else) or listen to someone else complain, a synapse in the brain fires across to another synapse, carrying pessimism along with it. Over time, consistent complaining can rewire the brain, making it easier for negativity to get passed around. And, as we know, complaining changes nothing.
Here are 7 strategies for breaking the complaining habit:
1) Focus on Solutions and not on Problems
It’s true that what we focus on is what we manifest. If you tell yourself that “nothing works for me; I can never lose weight,” you are right. Instead of saying “nothing works for me,” refocus the self-talk to “maybe I need to do something differently; maybe I have just not found the right solution.” Seek out recommendations for a different plan. Work with a Health Coach. Stop doing the same things over again. Learn to use your energy productively to improve a situation with solutions rather than just complaining.
2) Develop the Skill of Positive Self-Talk
Your mind will believe anything you tell it, so by constantly coming up with excuses and negativity, you’re only keeping yourself from progress. Positive self-talk takes practice but you can do it! When you catch yourself “going negative,” stop. Take a breath and refocus the talk. “Why am I going negative? How can I reverse this thought process?”
3) Set GOALS
Identify your goals. They should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (SMART goals). Then, develop a plan with action steps. With a clear plan, you are more likely to overcome obstacles and challenges that will arise.
4) Embrace the Obstacle as the Way
Speaking of obstacles …. we all like EASY, right? However, obstacles and challenges — while not necessarily enjoyable or comfortable at the time — can be our very best learning experiences. Embrace them, learn from them and conquer them. This is how you move forward.
5) Appreciate Every Stage of Progress
Be aware of all you are learning and are achieving along the way: perhaps it’s more energy, better sleep, learning new habits, feeling healthier. Take it one day at a time. Give yourself grace.
6) Practice Gratitude
Extend gratitude to all aspects of life. Something as simple as writing down three things you’re grateful for every day for 3 weeks can significantly increase your level of optimism!
7) Redirect Negative Energy into Positive Movement
When you feel the urge to complain or go negative, redirect it into a physical activity that gets you closer to your ultimate goal. This could be a quick walk around the block, taking five deep breaths (yes, this really does work!) to compose yourself, do a short session of stretching.
Getting stuck in a cycle of complaining – either on the giving or receiving end – can derail the best of intentions. What strategies have you found to be effective in putting a stop to negative chatter and negative self-talk?