Have you ever noticed there is a distorted perception about complaining? We’re afraid to complain outwardly because we don’t want to be labeled as a complainer. There’s also a fear that we will drive others away if we appear too pessimistic or not a constant ray of sunshine. Yet, sometimes, we can’t help but complain, and that’s okay. As humans, we innately need to vent our concerns. But if you feel like your level of complaining is damaging your life in some way, you can learn how to stop complaining about everything or at least discover how to complain constructively.
How to Stop Complaining About Everything
1. Complain constructively
Stemming from the introduction, let’s learn how to complain constructively first. Because the truth is, it’s unlikely you’ll stop complaining altogether. In fact, complaining is a part of our human nature. It’s called negativity bias. We have an innate and evolutionary tendency to remember and react more strongly to negative experiences and events than to positive ones. But, there’s an issue. When we complain, we only focus on the negative aspects, and this can lead to a heightened sense of dissatisfaction. Therefore, the key is to communicate effectively and increase your self-awareness to determine the underlying roots.
2. What is the root cause?
To dive deeper, ask yourself why you feel you complain too much. When you air your concerns, are you seeking validation? Or when you pay attention to how you’re speaking, do you hear yourself and discover it’s not as bad as you think? As with everything, there’s always a reason behind our behavior. Perhaps you were scolded as a child for sharing your opinions. Or, while venting to a friend, they painfully said, “Why are you always so negative?” and this statement left a mark. Whatever the case, use mindfulness to help you analyze the situation. Look at your loved one’s body language as you vent and journal to discover why your buttons are pushed.
3. Practice radical acceptance
First introduced as a principle of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, radical acceptance involves accepting whatever situation is reinforcing your negativity bias or upsetting you completely as it is. When you learn how to practice radical acceptance, you acknowledge and accept your current reality despite the pain it causes. Doing so creates the foundation to let go and embrace the constant fluidity of life’s ups and downs. To start, follow these steps:
- Observe when you fight reality through your self-talk. Maybe when you complain, you use a lot of shoulds or could-ofs.
- Improve your perspective by saying, “That is what happened, and I can’t change the past. But what can I learn from it?”.
- Act as if you accepted the situation entirely. What would that look like?
- Allow the intense emotions to arise and go. They’re temporary, and the anger won’t last forever.
4. Discover the power of gratitude
You’re probably already familiar with gratitude. Maybe you’ve seen social media posts encouraging you to incorporate it into your morning or bedtime routine, or a loved one told you it transformed how they view life. There’s a reason why it seems like everyone practices gratitude. It’s powerful. One study found feeling grateful for your life activates areas of the brain as part of the reward system, leading to increased happiness and reducing maladaptive coping behaviors. Therefore, make it a habit to recount at least five things every night before you go to bed that you’re grateful for. The more you practice, you may start to discover the good within the bad. For example, maybe that relationship wasn’t great for you, or that job your lost would have created more stress.
5. Be mindful of your emotions
A part of increasing your self-awareness involves understanding the emotions that surface beneath the desire to complain. For example, perhaps someone cuts you off in traffic, and you feel angry. Yet, instead of regulating your anger and using a coping mechanism, you may resort to a full-blown rant to a coworker. While it’s okay to vent, if you find yourself reacting instead of responding, learning how to control your emotions will help you discover how to stop complaining about everything. So, when something or someone sets you off, and you feel an intense emotion, take a deep breath, address your emotion (“I feel upset”), and ask yourself, “What can I do to feel better?”
6. Find the positives
After improving your emotional regulation, learn how to have a positive mindset by shifting your language. For example, using negative words and phrases, such as “I can’t,” “It’s impossible,” or “I hate,” can enforce a habit and encourage negativity in others. Therefore, try to say, “I can’t yet, but I will”, and “It’s possible to achieve what I want”. These slight changes in your internal dialogue can make a big impact in how you speak to yourself and with others.
7. Focus on solving the problem
Instead of feeding your anger with a rant, focus on solving the problem. For example, if you’re annoyed that your friend showed up late to hang out, take a deep breath and vent your concerns without being reactive or defensive. You could say, “I love spending time with you. Next time, please text me to let me know you’ll be late”. Saying “next time” instead of “but” is a simple word change that packs a positive punch. It empowers them to focus on your message by sandwiching your feedback between two positives and allowing you to address your emotions.
8. Determine where to vent
Who do you vent to, and what channel do you use? For example, do you vent to your loved ones, coworkers, or even your cat? Sharing your anger with trusted sources can help you receive support and develop different perspectives in a safe and protected environment. But complaining on social media can cause the opposite. You might come across individuals who respond solely to elicit a reaction, or you may find people who feel the same. But be cautious, as this can result in you feeding off one another and creating an ongoing cycle of increased negativity and unhappiness. Therefore, privately vent to avoid a potentially more painful situation from occurring.
Remember, learning how to stop complaining about everything altogether is impossible. With the intensity of the world and its obstacles, it’s more than okay to vent your concerns. In fact, it’s healthy and necessary. But it’s also okay to want a more positive mindset and see life through a glass-half-full approach. Therefore, practice the tips we discussed to learn how to complain constructively and build self-awareness to balance the spectrum of light and dark.
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