Complaining (and Listening to it) is Shrinking Your Brain

Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC

Do you have people in your life who like to complain? Are you guilty of complaining? Most of us are. According to an article by Meghan Overdeep in Southern Living, “The average person complains between 15 and 30 times a day.” It goes on to say that “Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining, or even being complained to, for 30 minutes or more can physically damage the brain, specifically the area critical to problem solving and intelligent thought.” Oh no! What now?

Here are some ways to break the destructive habit of complaining.

  1. Start paying attention to your thoughts and what you say to yourself. How much is negative? Once you are consciously aware, you have the power to stop negative thoughts in their tracks. It starts with awareness.
  2. Stop yourself when you hear yourself complaining. Simply say, “Stop it.”
  3. Now ask yourself some thought provoking questions such as, “Can I change it? What can I do? Will thinking about it make it better?”
  4. Take action to change it if you can. If not, let it go and think about something more positive.

Here are some ways to get others to stop complaining to you.

  1. Start paying attention to complaining and negativity. How much is negative? Once you are consciously aware, you have the power to take action. It starts with awareness.
  2. When you notice that someone is complaining to you, instead of jumping on the bandwagon, ask them some thought provoking questions such as, “Can you change it? What can you do? Do you want to think through some options together? Will focusing on it make it better?”
  3. If their complaining involves gossiping about another person, you can simply say, “I’d rather not.”
  4. It may take a couple of times of doing this, but eventually they will get the hint that you are not interested in engaging in their negative dialogue and stop complaining to you. You can, however, help them think through actions they can take to make it better if you want to engage in a positive problem-solving dialogue.
  5. If that doesn’t work, you can be more direct and simply state that you aren’t interested in engaging in complaining and negative dialogue because it shrinks your brain. However, you would be happy to help them think through actions they can take to make it better. That may give them pause to think.

I hope that you will use this information to stop complaining and get others around you to stop complaining. When we are more positive, we are more powerful and creative. We realize what we can do something about and take action and let go of the negative thoughts/words that aren’t serving us.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference
.” – Serenity Prayer

“If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.” – Peace Pilgrim

“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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