We probably all complain about something at least once during the day: The line is too long at the grocery store; there are too many emails in your inbox; you’re starving before dinner. Griping about these problems might seem harmless, but complaining can have some negative effects on both your physical and mental health, sometimes in ways you might not even realize. Considering most people complain about 15-30 times a day, according to Will Bowen, author of “A Complaint Free World,” it can be helpful to try to stop all that negativity before it even begins.
One woman tried to do just that, and the results were striking. Writer Samantha Lefave stopped complaining for 21 days and wrote about her experience for Fitness Magazine. Here are a few of the things that happened when she decided to stop with the complaints:
1. She Learned The Difference Between Expressive And Instrumental Complaining
It turns out not all complaining is created equal. Expressive complaining—the type we usually resort to in order to diffuse our emotions when in a frustrating situation—can be cathartic, but it’s not very productive. Instrumental complaining, on the other hand, is communicating your problems directly to a person with a goal in mind. Just because you commit to not “complaining” doesn’t mean you should keep issues bottled up.
2. She Wrote Down Most Of Her Frustrations Instead
Verbalizing your complaints left and right can be problematic, but jotting them down in your notes on your phone or on paper can actually have the opposite effect: Writing about stressful or traumatic events can be therapeutic and have benefits for your mental and physical health.
3. She Felt Happier
Thinking about all the negatives in life is a recipe for unhappiness, so it’s no surprise that Lefave’s mood improved after the experiment. Complaining often actually rewires your brain to encourage more complaining in the future, and it even raises your levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cutting down on the complaints can help you feel less stressed and negative immediately and in the future.