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How to complain, configure your brain towards negativity

May 7, 2020

Here are 4 easy ways to stop complaining.

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How to complain, configure your brain towards negativityHow to complain, configure your brain towards negativity


Research has shown that most people complain once a minute during a normal conversation. Discomfort is tempting because it feels good, but like many other things you enjoy (like smoking or eating a pound of bacon for breakfast), discomfort is not good for your health.

Your brain loves to be efficient and doesn’t like to work more than necessary. When you repeat behavior like complaining, your neurons branch out to facilitate the flow of information. This makes it easier to repeat this behavior in the future, which makes it so easy that you may not even notice you are doing it.

You can’t blame your brain. Who wants to build a makeshift bridge every time they have to cross a river? It makes a lot more sense to build a permanent bridge. This brings your neurons closer together and the connections between them become more permanent. Scientists like to describe this process as “neurons that fight together, stay together”.

Constantly complaining will reconfigure your brain, making it easier to complain in the future. Over time, you will find that it is easier to be negative than positive regardless of what is going on around you. Complaints become your standard behavior, which changes the way people perceive you.

And here’s the trick: discomfort also damages other areas of your brain. Stanford University research has shown that discomfort reduces the hippocampus, an important brain area for problem solving and intelligent thinking. Damage to the hippocampus is terrifying, especially when we consider it one of the main areas of the brain destroyed by Alzheimer’s.

Complaints are also harmful to health

While it’s no exaggeration to say that discomfort damages the brain, it doesn’t stop there. When you complain, your body excretes the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone puts us in alarm mode (fight or flight) and directs oxygen, blood and energy to the systems necessary for survival. For example, one of the effects of cortisol is to raise blood pressure and sugar levels to prepare you for escape or defense.

All of the additional cortisol that is released through common ailments affects your immune system and makes you more prone to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It makes the brain even more susceptible to strokes.

It’s not just you …

Because people are social by nature, our brains naturally and unconsciously mimic the moods of our fellow human beings, especially those with whom we spend a lot of time. This process is known as neural reflexand it is the foundation of our ability to feel empathy. The downside, however, is that it causes symptoms like smoking: you don’t have to do it yourself to suffer the negative effects. You need to be careful when you spend time with people who complain about everything. Complainants want people to join their complaining party to feel better. Think of it this way: if someone smokes, would you sit by their side all afternoon to inhale all the smoke? No, you would keep your distance and you should be able to do the same with complainants.

The solution to complaints

There are two things you can do if you want to complain. One is to maintain an attitude of gratitude. That is, if you want to complain, focus your attention on something you appreciate. Giving yourself time to think about what you appreciate is not only the right thing, it also reduces the hormone cortisol by 23%. Research from the University of California found that people who work daily to maintain an attitude of gratitude experienced an improvement in their mood and energy, as well as a significant improvement in anxiety due to lower cortisol levels. Every time you experience negative or pessimistic thoughts, use them to change focus and think about positive things. Over time, a positive attitude towards a lifestyle becomes.

The second thing you can do, and this is only true if you have something that is really worth complaining about, is to do it, but focus on the solution. Think of it as a targeted complaint. Complaints with a solution should include:

  1. A clear purpose. Before you complain, you need to understand what the result is that you want to get. If you can’t identify a purpose, you may just want to complain about it, and that’s the type of complaint you shouldn’t allow yourself.

  2. Start with something positive. Starting a complaint with a compliment can be counterproductive, but starting with something positive prevents the other person from becoming defensive. For example, before you complain about poor customer service, you could say, “I’ve been a customer for a long time and I’ve always liked the service …”

  3. Be precise. When it comes to complaining, this is not a good time to get rid of the ailments you’ve had in the past 20 years. Just focus on the current situation and be as specific as possible. Instead of saying, “Your employee was rude to me,” specifically describe the employee’s attitude that you found to be rude.

  4. End with something positive. If you end your complaint with “I will not buy here again”, the person listening is not motivated to resolve your complaint. In this case, just vent your anger or whine on purpose. Better to rephrase your purpose and your desire for a solution with: “I want to solve this so that I can do business together.”

In summary

Just like smoking, drinking excessively, or spending too many hours on the couch in front of the TV, complaining is a bad thing for you. Use my advice and you will take advantage of the physical, mental and performance benefits that come with a positive attitude.

A version of this article appeared on TalentSmart.

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