I am a huge fan of Dale Carnegie. He got it right almost 100 years ago in his book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” For me, it’s a behavior and relationship bible, and everyone should read it.
Dale’s first principle is one I agree with yet often defy: Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
Makes sense, right? It should be easy enough. You can bite your tongue on a criticism, hold back from condemning another, but how hard is it to NOT complain? As it turns out, near impossible.
I consider myself a pretty aware person—someone working on herself most of the time and super open to change wherever needed in my life. I also pride myself on being a positive person, extremely grateful, and overall HAPPY.
Yet, when I stopped to notice my behavior, I realized I complain A LOT. WAY more than I would have reported on had I been asked. It surprised me because it made no sense. Here I am pursuing a Certificate in Happiness Studies, continually educating myself in coaching and human resources and failing.
I know better. So why don’t I DO better?
The answer is the same for all of us who know better. We’re human. If we don’t make something a top priority, it falls by the wayside. It becomes another thing to do…like exercising, eating right, and sleeping…or maybe that’s just me. Hey, I’m a self-proclaimed work in progress, one thing at a time…I’ll get there!
Looking into the effects of complaining, I learned some things that disturbed me.
Complaining isn’t just something we do to do. It’s the way we communicate when we’re displeased and need to be heard. There is value in complaining and getting our feelings out, especially with someone we trust who supports us and can empathize. The problem is when complaining, with a lack of awareness and action, becomes a habit. Habits become our way of life, and the negativity can have devastating effects on our psyche and our physical health.
It’s important to know that a complaint isn’t JUST a complaint. It triggers cortisol, a stress hormone, which, in turn, impairs our immune system. Moreover, it puts stress on our brains. This is not good for anyone who has a pre-disposition to illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, or a mental illness like anxiety and depression.
Worse, when complaining becomes a way of life, it not only rewires your brain for negativity, but for a disease.
That was definitely NOT my intention. So, I decided to do something about it and make it a priority, something I will change.
The good news is, we have total control over complaining. We can stop the damage it causes in its tracks. And, we can rewire our brains for happiness and health with five simple steps.
- Be Aware: Be aware of your words and how you feel when you say them. When a complaint flies out of your mouth (and it will), STOP. Take a moment and ask yourself, “What is really bothering me?” And, more importantly, “What can I do about it?” You can choose to take action, if possible, or let go of the complaint if it serves no purpose in your life.
- Reframe: To reframe your mind into a positive mode, ask yourself, “What’s another way of looking at the situation?” It may be an opportunity for empathy if another person is the subject of your complaint. Or an opportunity for gratitude if it’s affecting you directly.
- Choose: Decide to not complain about that same thing again. Once you’ve addressed it, let it go. With each choice, you will feel lighter and happier.
- Commit: When the issue comes up again, slow down to remember your choice. Move forward with a deep breath and decision to let it go.
- Complain No More!
Committing to complain no more is like the books on my laptop, perpetual works in progress, like you and like me. If you complain from time to time, it’s not the end of the world. Things happen in life and we need to vent. Besides, you’re human, remember? Just don’t make it a habit. It’s not your destiny. You’re meant to live a happy life. Make this decision one of the steps you take toward feeling good every single day.
Choose to complain no more for your happiness…and your health!