Recently I posted a link on my FB page about a study about complaining (it got flagged as against the community so I deleted it). The article was a clever interpretation about this study out of Indiana University.
What was cool about the study is that they had some participants keep a gratitude journal. Of course the research substantiated what scientists have known for a long time… what fires together, wires together (if you talk with me about neuroscience or pretty much anything behavior related, you’ll hear me quote that phrase often). What that means is that your brain will build stronger connections when something is repeated.
In the case of the gratitude journal in this study, the participants that kept the gratitude journal had an increase in feelings of gratitude and the regions of the brain responsible for processing empathy. Basically, the participants felt more grateful for things in their life 3 months after the journal writing exercise was finished.
What happens to your brain if you’re complaining about being unhappy?
You guessed it, you are literally wiring your brain to be unhappy. Whatever messages you repeat, for good or worse, will affect your outlook. A seemingly meaningless conversation complaining to your friend can impact your life, especially if you are doing this repeatedly.
So the next time you want to complain, think about the message you’re giving yourself. Is what you’re wanting to complain about worth making your life unhappy?
A trick I use for my kids (not just for complaining but for arguments with their friends) is to ask if what they’re arguing about will matter in 5 years? What about a year from now? If it won’t matter then, why should it matter now?
The same holds true for complaining. If what you want to complain about doesn’t matter a year from now, why bother? It won’t do you or anyone else any good to hear about something “bad” and it might cause actual harm to your well-being.
So, I’m not complaining. Are you?
This blog post was inspired by the Impact Theory episode with Gary Vaynerchuk I watched tonight with my son. Warning: they do use some swear words.