Complaining can sabotage our happiness, confine our creativity, and stunt our growth. Just for today, I challenge you (and myself) to stop complaining and have a better day on purpose.
“Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.” – Teddy Roosevelt
Complaining isn’t simply making an observation that something is wrong (e.g. commenting on the cold weather). Complaining is taking an observation and adding negative energy or emotion to it (i.e. making it sound like your tears are going to freeze on your face and you’ll die from frostbite as a result).
The latter description is expressed dissatisfaction, resentment, and suffering toward the circumstance.
Things don’t always turn out how we expected according to our plans. We can readjust, and we’re built to do just that. We can discover our own enduring happiness, or at least meaning, regardless of the circumstance we find ourselves in.
Suffering is Optional
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Viktor Frankl
As the famous adage goes, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” When it comes to physical and emotional pain, we do have a choice, even when it seems like we don’t. When we complain, we are indeed choosing to suffer.
It can feel good to complain, especially when others validate what we’re feeling and saying. The fact that we’re complaining isn’t why we feel better, however; it feels good to be heard and acknowledged by others, because it means we’re not alone in our thoughts and feelings.
It’s possible to feel connected without saturating everything with shades of suffering. It’s possible to infuse positive energy into a negative situation, to rise above the communal complaints and instead choose your own path—a happier one.
The Purpose of Positivity
“It is your responsibility to make sure that positive emotions constitute the dominating influence of your mind.” – Napoleon Hill
Our brain is wired for both negative and positive emotions.
When a threat arises, whether real or perceived, our brain’s natural impulse is to focus on what’s wrong. Our attention is directed toward the negative, helping us survive but making it nearly impossible to see the situation in any other light.
If we don’t cultivate self-awareness or make a conscious effort to override our instinctive negative tendencies, we cut ourselves off from noticing the inherent beauty, joy, and possibilities that lie before us.
Barbara Fredrickson, a revered professor at the University of Michigan known for her work in Positive Psychology, claims that positive emotions have a grander purpose in evolution.
They broaden our abiding intellectual, physical, and social resources, building up reserves we can draw upon when a threat or opportunity presents itself. When we are in a positive mood, people like us better, and friendship, love, and coalitions are more likely to cement. In contrast to the constrictions of negative emotion, our mental set is expansive, tolerant, and creative. We are open to new ideas and new experiences.
Negative emotion narrows our repertoire to fight immediate threat. Positive emotion has consequences that are broadening, building, and abiding, and advertises growth.
Instead of resisting your negative emotions, consciously focus on the possibility of addressing the source of your complaint so that you can change things. For every problem, there is a positive solution, but it’s difficult to see them if we’re too busy complaining about our troubles.
Stop Complaining, Just for Today
“When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.” – Eckhart Tolle
Be the hero of your own life, not the victim. You have the ability to break negative thought patterns and spark an upward spiral of positive emotion.
For the next twenty four hours, take a complaint vacation. At first it may not feel like a vacation, but the beginning is always the hardest. Here are a few things that will help make it easier:
1. Cultivate self-awareness.
Be aware of your feelings, your attitude, your mood, your energy, your body’s messages, your movements – everything. Take note of your internal experiences. Pay attention to what’s going on inside of you, and you’ll be better equipped to confront negativity when it springs up.
2. Move slowly.
When you feel yourself overwhelmed with the temptation to complain, literally stop yourself. Pause, take a deep breath, close your eyes if you can, accept what’s happening inside of you, and focus on neutralizing your tone and energy.
3. Check into gratitude.
Think, speak, and write down the things you appreciate about your life. It’s easier to stop complaining if you’re dwelling in feelings of gratefulness. The more you do this, the more you’ll notice, and the more you’ll have to appreciate.
- Are you willing to stop complaining, just for one day? Are you willing to try?
- How can you transform your pain into power?
- How can you grow from your burdens and move forward with gratitude for your lessons?
Please share your thoughts, gratitude practices, positive intentions, and any experiences with me in the comments.
Share this with someone you care about.
Stop complaining about the rosebush having thorns, and be grateful that the thorn bush has roses.
Free wreath graphic by Starsunflower Studio; lettering by Aim Happy.