It’s all hit the fan, and you’re angry. Things haven’t turned out. You call a friend – maybe you get your anger out first, but let’s be real and honest here. You complain. Go on a rant with all your complaints stacked up against one another. You finish the conversation. You feel better. You’ve got some stuff off your chest and now you can move on.
All very normal so far.
But have you stopped to think about the long-term effect this type of behaviour might have on your health?
Turns out, the more we complain, the more negative we are. Which kind of makes sense. The brain is essentially a super lazy organ. It wants to spend its time just watching Netflix and hanging out like we do. What this means is that when we constantly repeat the same behaviour or actions, our brains learn that behaviour and it strengthens those pathways. The neural connections for complaining become stronger than the connections for say, gratitude.
Essentially, if you’re used to always looking for the downside in any situation, then you’re going to start seeing the downside.
Which will then lead to more complaining and more negativity. The opposite of this is people who are grateful on a daily basis are more positive. They are the ones looking for the upside, the silver linings, even in the bad moments.
Apart from just making us more negative generally, complaining all the time can have other negative effects. Complaining is usually a response to some type of anger – another emotion that isn’t good for us in large doses.
Too much anger can reduce the size of the hippocampus.
Prolonged exposure to stress hormones can slowly kill off neurons in the hippocampus. As the hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for memory and problem-solving, shrinking it is not recommended!
Stress hormones, namely cortisol, have also been linked to weight gain, heart disease and stroke. Cortisol is the body’s natural “fight or flight” hormone, meaning it’s supposed to be released under very stressful circumstances. The modern day world has meant we are constantly exposed to stressful situations, but of course our bodies evolved before the modern era and were not meant to be constantly in a state of stress. Hence all the negative side effects of too much cortisol, and just another reason to try to control your anger and stress levels.
What we would suggest to try to stave off these negative effects, is that you take stock of how much you complain, and try to change some of those complaints into gratitude, or if you can’t do that, let them slide. Practice your zen and peace out. If someone cuts you off in traffic, let it go – it’ll hardly be 30 seconds more in your car. If the price of your favourite coffee has gone up – try to make your coffee a treat, and think about the baristas and the coffee bean farmers. Activities like this are very helpful in releasing anger, and rewiring your brain to find the good not the bad, and thus, stopping that negative cycle of complaints.