We’ve all had weeks where our workload piles up, we feel overwhelmed, and we indulge in the need to vent. Is there anything wrong with a little complaining? After all, doesn’t it help us blow off steam so that we can get back to focusing on our huge To Do list? As it turns out, it’s time to add complaining to the list of things you’re better off without, because new scientific findings have proven that complaining does not, in fact, make you feel any better or serve you in any positive way.
Psych Pedia scholar Steven Parton presents two logical points for why complaining does your brain no favors. Let’s delve into the inner workings of the brain for a minute to see how venting can be doing you a huge disservice to your life and your business:
Re-train Your Synapses
Brain synapses are surrounded and separated by synaptic cleft. Every time you have a thought, a chemical signal hops over this cleft, making a bridge for electrical signals to get around. Every time this signal is triggered, synapses grow closer together so they don’t have to jump as far. Essentially your brain acts like a bridge that is constantly re-engineering itself to carry a big load without less effort.
Your thoughts literally reshape your brain. So if you’re having an above average amount of negative thoughts (which comes out as frequent complaints), you’re strengthening those negative bridges—meaning you’re more likely to keep falling into the negativity trap. Instead, rewire your brain just as powerfully towards a positive mental attitude by focusing on cultivating gratitude for all the goodness you already have in your life.
Surround Yourself with Positive People
Just as we have the amazing ability as human beings to rewire our brain chemistry on an ongoing basis, the emotions of the people around us can just as powerfully affect our mental state. As kids we learn that touching fire is a bad idea that will result in painful burns. Therefore we don’t put our hand on a lit stove. In the same way, when we see those around us experiencing an emotion, our empathy kicks in and we put ourselves in their shoes.
Empathy is therefore training your brain to fire the synapses that signal the dominant emotions around you. You can probably guess where this is going: surrounding yourself with positive people is a great way to get out of the negativity trap. On an instinctual level, we already know this: being around a friend or colleague who constantly complains about every little thing leaves you feeling weighed down and unhappy. Conversely, surrounding yourself with positive people has a positive effect on your attitude and your brain synapses.
Complain Less, Achieve More
Not only will your brain health improve by quitting complaining, but your physical health will be much stronger, too. The stress hormone cortisol is linked to all kinds of negative health effects, from obesity to high blood pressure. Engaging in negative thinking is the quickest way to pump your body full of cortisol. By making the decision to choose positive thinking, and surround yourself with positive people, you’ll be giving yourself a clean bill of health by lowering your cortisol levels.
Choosing to have a positive outlook, even on busy days that may have triggered stress in the past, is actually the best recipe you can have for success. A calm and positive outlook fosters productivity. While complaining can sometimes seem tempting, I hope the science-backed reasons above will make you think twice about how you react to a situation. Just as busy people get more done, happy people feel better about their accomplishments that pessimists. Ultimately, we all want to lead happy and productive lives, don’t we?