You slept in and are late for work. It is wet outside and you do not have an umbrella. Your head is aching and you cannot think straight. You have no time for breakfast and no doubt will now get caught in traffic and be delayed further. Worse still, you forgot to get cash from the ATM, you have little petrol in the car, and you are fed up with the Government, your nosy neighbours, and the corner shop which never stocks what you need. And you cannot stand the rain and the fact that it is mid August and there has been very little sunshine or the way that many shops forget to give your receipts these days.
Does this sound like you? If so, watch out! You are well on the way (if not already there! ) to becoming a complainer. You are not seeing the glass as half full but three-quarters empty. Even when the sun is splitting the rocks you are telling yourself (and all who care to listen ) that it is too hot and the grass needs water. You have an unhappy knack of zoning in on all that is wrong with your life and the world and focusing all your energy on it. When people leave your company, they feel burdened and wonder how in 10 minutes flat the life blood could be sucked out of them through a simple social exchange.
Most of us complain at some stage and of course, some of us are better at it than others. If you are looking for things to complain about you will find many. It is easy for whinging to become a habit and for people to not even realise that they are doing it. It might be passed off as venting, letting off steam or just having a good old fashioned grumble. We might think that releasing our stockpile of minor irritations and frustrations in this way is beneficial and will in fact, make us feel good.
But experts say that expressing negativity tends not to make us feel better and warn that it also has an adverse effect on those unlucky enough to be in the vicinity when we are having a rant. It appears complaining is bad for our moods and that of those around us. The problem with a negative behaviour such as this is that it is usually unproductive (the exception to the rule is what is termed as instrumental complaining whereby you have a legitimate issue to air and voice it with the intention of achieving change, ie, the messy state of your teenager’s room, noisy neighbours keeping you awake with all night parties, etc ) and can quickly become habit forming. It is all too easy for excessive grumbling to become an integral part of our daily interactions with people and for it to become a platform for releasing general dissatisfaction rather than an instrument for problem solving or human connection.
Upset by little things
Patrick McKeown, the Moycullen based author of “Anxiety Free - Stop Worrying and Quieten your Mind” says becoming aware of how frequently we complain is the first step to tackling the issue. Ask yourself are you constantly whining about one thing or another? If you are unsure how you rate on the complain meter look back over your day and try to count the number of times you moaned about the weather/ your partner/boss/children/job?
“Watch how often you are unhappy with what is going on in your life,” he outlines. “Become aware of how little things upset you. The more thoughts that you have running through your head, the more you get upset and frustrated by little things.
“In every situation, you can always find something that is not how it should be. Children might be running around while you eat at a local cafe. Your partner might snore at night. The toilet seat might have been left up every time you use the bathroom. The coffee pot might be left on the counter every morning and might have left a stain. The weather is bad. The economy is in recession. You are stuck in traffic. Finances might be a little low. The shower leaks. Your neighbour is an ass.”
Writing in his book, he explains that complaining keeps you in a constant state of turmoil as you do not want to accept the reality of the moment.
“You wish it to be different. Complaining is when you are not prepared to accept the current situation and you want something else. You are rejecting what is.”
He says you have four options:-
1. Accept the situation.
2. Remove yourself from the situation.
3. Change the situation.
4. If the time is not right to change the situation “drop the story and wait for the time to be right,” he advises. “Everything changes and this will change too. It is as it is.”
Reasons why you should stop complaining
1. It fosters a negative attitude. If you do not believe this, then go find a happy complainer. You will be hard pressed to come across a whinger with a winning smile and a hearty laugh who is always the life and soul of the party. Instead, whiners are generally the ones with vacant seats either side of them. Complaining tends to make us focus on all that is wrong in our lives and with the world in general and leads us further down the path of negativity.
2. Remember misery loves company. Start a misery conversation and soon those around you will be contributing and the mood will drop. By focusing frequently on the negatives we direct other people’s attention to them.
3. Complaining will not change your circumstances. All the grumbling in the world will not turn your life around if you are unhappy with some aspects of it. Taking action is what is required.
4. It is not attractive. People tend to avoid moaners like the plague because they drag down your mood and dampen your spirit. It is not enjoyable spending time with people who never see the silver linings in clouds.
5. It narrows our focus and vision. Complaining by its very nature shuts out the positive, the possible, and the achievable hence limiting rather than broadening our horizons.
Five ways to beat the complaining habit
1. Be a good gardener of your mind, recommends Patrick McKeown. A mind that is observing is an unsuitable environment for complaining to take root. A lack of awareness is the perfect breeding ground so be vigilant.
2. Watch out for triggers. Do you tend to complain more when you are tired, hungry, angry or overwhelmed? Are you more prone to it in the morning, afternoon or evening? Or maybe it is at the weekend that you release all the week’s pent up frustrations? Be aware of what sets you off and then watch your words. When you feel a whinge playing on your lips think twice before airing it. Ask yourself what you will gain from venting? But maybe your complaining is not usually triggered by anything in particular, you could be one of life’s serial whingers? Maybe you do not even realise you are a mega moaner? (Hopefully after reading this you will ).
3. Take small steps. Start as you mean to go on. If you want to break free of the complaining trap then aim to achieve this in stages. You will not wake up one day and suddenly be blinded by the blue sky overhead and see the world solely through rose tinted glasses. Try setting aside a time each day when you will be particularly mindful. Aim to get from breakfast to coffee break time without complaining. This grumble-free time will allow you to concentrate on something positive, such as setting goals to change the issues in your life which are no longer serving you well and which may be at the root of all this whinging.
4. Reward mini successes. As you becoming increasingly aware of your thought processes and achieve longer periods without mindless complaining be sure to treat yourself in recognition of reaching this milestone. Have tea with a friend, go to the cinema, book a pampering session, buy a fragrant candle.
5. Do not begin conversations with a complaint. This is a cardinal error. You may be making huge strides but sometimes even the best intentioned get waylaid along the way. A negative start to any conversation tends to set the tone for the rest of the exchange so instead try to be cheery and spread a little sunshine.