It’s something we all do. Complain. But as people in recovery or newly entering recovery it is something we should be aware of. When we are looking at everything we don’t have, when we are focusing only on what we are lacking, and then talking about it, we create a negative space in our heads and in our recovery. Thoughts become words, words become actions and actions become our life.
Today we are living a life of gratitude. It is time to stop complaining–and now, science backs that up with why.
If you are complaining a lot, you can actually rewire your brain for negativity. And this doesn’t just apply to those with substance abuse issues, this goes for EVERYONE.
Research shows that most people complain once a minute during a typical conversation. Complaining is tempting because it feels good, but like many things that are enjoyable–such as smoking, or eating unhealthy foods–complaining, not surprisingly, is not good for you.
The brain is wired for efficiency and doesn’t like to work harder than it has to. When you repeat a behavior such as complaining, your neurons branch out to each other to ease the flow information. Because of this, this makes the behavior much easier to repeat in the future. So much so, that you might not even realize you’re doing it.
But you can’t blame your brain. Would you want to build an entirely new bridge every time you needed to cross a river? I don’t think so. It would make a lot more sense for you and your brain to construct a permanent bridge. So your neurons grow closer together, and the connections between them become more permanent.
So what happens? Over time, you find it is easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what is happening around you. Complaining becomes a default.
And here’s the real surprise. Complaining damages other areas of your brain as well. Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the area of your brain that helps with problem solving and intelligent thought. Damage to that area also happens when you have Alzheimer’s.
It might not come as a shock that complaining can lead to brain damage, but it might come as a surprise that it also can damage your health.
When you complain, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol shifts you into fight or flight mode, directing blood, oxygen and energy away from everything but the systems that are essential to immediate survival. One effect of cortisol, is to raise your blood pressure and blood sugar so that you’ll be more prepared to either escape or defend yourself.
The extra cortisol impairs your immune system, makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. It also even makes the brain more prone to strokes.
Since human beings are inherently social, our brains naturally and unconsciously mimic the moods of those around us, particularly people we spend a great deal of time with. This process is called neuronal mirroring, and it’s the basis for our ability to feel empathy. The flip side, however, is that it makes complaining a lot like smoking—you don’t have to do it yourself to suffer the ill effects. You need to be cautious about spending time with people who complain about everything. Complainers want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves.
Well, first thing is first. Become aware of how much you complain. It is probably a lot more than you think. Once you get an idea of how much and begin to be aware of when it happens, start to cultivate gratitude into your daily life. Actually don’t wait to cultivate gratitude, start to do that and begin to be aware.
When you feel like complaining, switch your attention to something you’re grateful for. Not only does this stop the complaining, gratitude has some pretty awesome positive effects on the body in contrast to complaining.
The second thing you can do, is only when you have something that is truly worth complaining about, is to engage in solution oriented conversation. Complaining for a purpose. The way you do this, is to start with something positive and have a clear purpose for your complaint. If your goal is to just to vent, check yourself–that’s a no go. If you have an issue and then are finding a solution then you can end on a positive note.
Just like smoking and drinking, complaining is bad for you. Part of sobriety is a change in the way we think. You can start simply here.
Try to go a whole 24 hours without a single complaint. Try to go 48 hours. If you notice yourself going there, try to flip the script in your head. There is always something to be grateful for.
Let us know how it goes!
Discover a better life and call our recovery helpline today.