The Complaining Trap
/ Author: CLAC Staff
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The Complaining Trap

Did you know that a pattern of daily complaining can lead to changes in your brain’s wiring? Here’s how to overcome those situations and events that can feel emotionally taxing at times.

By Annette Taylor, Human Resources Director

I don’t know about you, but in recent weeks I have found myself complaining about big and small situations and events. As part of my character, I intentionally work on keeping this in check.

I should clarify here that I don’t mean complaining from time to time. Getting things off your chest can bring concerns out into the open and lead to positive solutions while also building camaraderie with your coworkers. What I’m talking about is a pattern of constant daily complaining to the point that you could be labelled as someone who is a chronic complainer.

Generally speaking, complaining doesn’t sit well with me, so I tend to find ways to change the narrative, which often leads to a more positive outlook. You may feel like me, taking the necessary measures to adjust when you notice negative patterns of complaining.

I’m glad I’m able to do this, as research shows that frequent complaining releases extra cortisol that can have a negative impact on the immune system, increases susceptibility to chronic health conditions, and rewires the brain to increase the likelihood of future complaining. It can simply become a habit where negative patterns of behaviour replace positive ones.

Chronic complaining also impacts those with whom we interact and can cause this negative behaviour to transfer to others. The article “Managing a Chronic Complainer,” published in Harvard Business Review, reports that our brains unconsciously mimic the moods of others, which can be important in the face of danger. But research shows that complaining damages parts of the brain critical to problem-solving and intelligent thought!

I’ve decided that anything that steals my peace is too high a price to pay. Choosing to let some things go rather than ruminating on them or complaining incessantly is not always easy.

But I can now say with confidence that I have a better appreciation for the central role that I play in enjoying more positive outcomes. In the process, I am rewiring my neural pathways to shift gears and think more positively.

I hope that you find this information helpful in better understanding your ability to make choices that result in more favourable outcomes, not only for yourself, but also for your coworkers.

5 Strategies for Overcoming Emotionally Taxing Situations and Events

  1. Acknowledge that continual complaining traps you in a cycle of negativity.
  2. Focus on what you can influence and what is within your control.
  3. Notice your own behaviour and reactions.
  4. Shift your attention to things that you are grateful for.
  5. Complain with purpose by identifying a specific goal to address or concern to solve—focus on solutions.
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