How to Complain Less and Be Happier
Aidan Fogel Smith is a first year public relations student at Humber College.
There are two general types of complaints: instrumental and expressive. Instrumental complaints have a distinct purpose; we verbalize our problem in order to initiate change and fix a problem. Expressive complaining is different. We complain specifically to receive sympathy from the listener. It is only to allow us to get something off our chest and relieve stress.
Both types of complaining are good for you. Expressive complaining is a natural, and perfectly healthy outlet for our frustrations. However, there is a fine line between expressively complaining, and insisting on negativity simply because it has become a habit. Sometimes we slip into a sort of compulsion to dwell on the negative by abusing expressive complaining. Even little complaints such as “This week is going by so slow,” and “Why is there so much traffic,” add up and bring down your mood.
When we minimize our complaints, we can eliminate negative thoughts and turn them into productive solutions. Improving our attitudes not only will make you happy, but also the people around you. Here are some of the ways to stop complaining and focus on becoming happier:
1 Change your mindset. Definitely easier said than done, but being mindful of your thoughts is the first step to being more positive. When you find yourself thinking something negative about someone or something, force yourself to think something positive instead.
I find directing your thoughts toward gratitude is the easiest and most effective way to be positive. Instead of thinking about the mound of homework awaiting your arrival after work, think about how lucky you are to have the resources that allow you to attend school, and work.
2 Never think of a negative situation without offering a positive solution. When encountering a problem, always determine the reason for the problem, and a possible solution. Make it a reflex. Every time a problem comes your way ask yourself what you can do to better handle this problem in the future.
For example, “I had to wait in line for an hour. What a waste of time,” is a dead end complaint. A more productive complaint would be “I waited in line for an hour because I came at the busiest time of the day. Next time I will be sure to come earlier when the line is not as long.”
Training yourself to become a more results-based individual by offering solutions right away makes people want to be around you much more than someone who simply complains about the problem.
3 Be present! When you start being more aware of your thoughts you may find you complain most about things that haven’t happened yet (this is certainly true for me). Dreading things that are in the future only allows whatever unpleasant thing you are thinking of to take up more of your thoughts for more time. Focus on the present and you will have much less to complain about.
Complaining about the future is a huge waste of time, and a self fulfilling prophecy. If you have a negative idea of something, it will usually go badly.
4 Avoid complaining to socialize. It seems that people are more comfortable bonding over negative things than positive things. Gossiping and complaining are common ice breakers. It is normal to want to vent to your friends if you are having a stressful day, but you should want to bond over positive things rather than negative things.
5 Change it or accept it. The majority of things we complain about are things that we have the power to change. If something is in your control and you don’t want to change it, complaining will only bring unnecessary negativity to you and the people around you. Complaining about things that are out of your control is an enormous waste of time and will only bring you down. 5 Change it or accept it. The majority of things we complain about are things that we have the power to change. If something is in your control and you don’t want to change it, complaining will only bring unnecessary negativity to you and the people around you. Complaining about things that are out of your control is an enormous waste of time and will only bring you down.