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Complaining Takes its Toll

Complaining Takes its Toll 2/17/17Do you ever complain?  Do you know anyone who does?  Complaining is pretty common.  An article from the Penn State University website stated, “On average, a person complains once throughout a typical conversation.”  Since the words “on average,” were used in that statement, we can conclude that sometimes there is a lot of complaining in a conversation, and that averages out with the conversations that have no complaining.

Complaining is the act of expressing dissatisfaction or resentment. Some people call it venting.  What I found most interesting in the Penn State article was the claim that complaining takes a large toll on our brains, and henceforth our happiness.

Our brains take the path of least resistance, so the more we travel the path of complaining, the easier it is to continue complaining.  We can become desensitized to our own complaining, and may even become unaware that we are doing it. 

Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the hippocampus.  The hippocampus is an area of our brain that is used in problem-solving and memory. 

Our body chemistry changes when we complain, too.  When we complain, our body releases more cortisol.  Cortisol is the hormone that shifts a human into fight-or-flight mode.  With the release of cortisol, oxygen, blood, and energy is directed away from any system that is not crucial to survival. Frequent complaining results in extra cortisol being released, which then puts a person more at risk for high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and strokes.

It is tempting to say, “Enough already!  Stop with the complaining!”  But how? 

One strategy is to catch yourself in the act.  Every time we catch ourselves about to make a negative observation, make a positive one instead.  If that complaint slipped out anyway, make up for it by making three or more positive statements.

Another strategy is to take time to think about what we’re grateful for.  Research at University of California, Davis, has concluded that integrating moments of gratitude into our day can reduce cortisol by 23%. 

A third strategy comes from Dr. Theresa Glomb’s research at the University of Minnesota.  She has documented the positive effects that occur when we take the time to help someone else, reflect of it, and think about the person or people who are beneficiaries of the work we do.  She has found this to be true in a wide variety of workplace settings including factories, health care facilities, customer call centers, and even underground hydropower plants.

Adapted from:  https://sites.psu.edu/siowfa16/2016/10/21/what-does-complaining-do-to-your-brain/ and Dr. Theresa Glomb, Let’s Make Work Better, TedXTalk UMN, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCYeEt94EMc

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/qualities-grateful-joyful-954789/   (downloaded 2/21/17)




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