The first step to fixing a problem is admitting that you have one.
I’m no expert, but I do know that we’re all pretty darn guilty of complaining. Whether we complain consciously or subconsciously, we’ve all done it. But here’s the good news — we are completely in control and have the power to change it. So how the heck can we retrain our brains to stop complaining?!
I thought that you’d never ask.
Here are a few tips to keep nearby as you embark on your journey to complaint-free wonderland:
Identify what your complaints are
First and foremost, you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge. This part requires you to be honest and tell yourself the cold hard truth about what is causing all of your incessant whinings. You’ve gotta dig deep and try to identify what is the root of the problem so you can pluck that sucker and never look back. Try asking yourself a few questions:
What am I complaining about?
What are my biggest complaints?
How much / how often am I complaining?
Why do I do it?
This forces you to come face-to-face with the bad guys in your head. This level of self-awareness is important as you look to improve your thinking.
I’ll be candid and share that I always find a reason to complain about money. Whether it’s because I don’t make the amount that I’d like to, my terrifying stack of bills, or simply the lack thereof, I manage to find a way to complain about it. Admitting this is difficult, and sometimes embarrassing to say out loud, but because I am aware of it, I can start chipping away at my default feelings of anxiety, fear, and frustration about it.
I also struggle with complaining about work (I know that I’m not the only one). Come on. We all do it. It’s always something — the bumper-to-bumper traffic to and from, the hours logged, having to wake up early, etc. You feel me. But it’s so unhealthy to think this way! Especially when we spend an average of 90,360 hours of at work in our lifetime (dude, that’s a lot!).
That’s step one. Now what?
Notice your triggers
Now that we know what we’re complaining about, it’s important to get an understanding of what’s causing it. Pay attention to your triggers. Is there a specific time where you have the tendency to complain more? Is it a specific person or situation? Pay close attention and take note. If possible, try to avoid them entirely. If your triggers are outside of your control, make an effort to slow down and take a moment to reconsider how you react, leading us perfectly into the next action item.
When you are in a triggering situation, stop yourself. This is your red light, railroad crossing sign, do not enter, you name it. This should be your time to pause the world around you and center yourself. If it’s helpful, think of a loud bell or a sound that makes you stop dead in your tracks. Take a few moments to reevaluate the situation before you choose how to respond.
Apply the ‘but’ technique
If you start to feel your lips forming the words to complain, add the word ‘but’ to your sentence to change your thought from something positive to something more optimistic.
“I really hate how this shirt looks on me, but I’m thankful that I have clothes that keep me warm.”.
“I really need to replace this crappy old car, but at least I have a vehicle that allows me to commute and keeps me safe”.
“Work was so grueling today, but I am blessed to have a job with consistent income to support my family”.
See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?
Exchange ‘have to’ for ‘get to’
Start restructuring your words. After all, words are extremely powerful. You can just throw the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” right out of the window. Words can and do hurt, so don’t do it to yourself.
When you find yourself griping about “having to go to the grocery store” or “having to take the kids to school in the morning”, rephrase by saying that you “get to” do those things. Quickly, you will begin to view these things as opportunities rather than obligations.
Turn them into solutions
When we complain, typically it’s because we are unhappy with something and wish it could be better. So why don’t we analyze these complaints as opportunities for improvement? Don’t like your job? Get a new one! Feeling lonely at home? Get a cat. Stop sitting around looking at the problem expecting it to grow legs and walk away — take your power back and fix it.
When you take a moment to remind yourself of the things you are grateful for, it becomes nearly impossible to complain about it. Complaining and gratitude just don’t get along. When you’re at a red light, brushing your teeth, tucking your little ones into bed, or even walking your dog, identify a handful of things that you appreciate and are grateful to have. What are some things that you would be sad to lose? Keep those things in mind when you find yourself looking for things to tear yourself down.
Stay away from pity party-ers
We all know that misery loves company, so don’t join in on the party. By surrounding yourself with positive people, you are teaching your brain that it’s what you should be doing. This is one of those few exceptions to the “but everyone else is doing it” rule.
If you must be around this kind of conversation or people, try to empathize and offer positive alternatives. It will not only rewire your brain for positivity, but it will offer solutions to the person reaching out to you with something they are struggling with. Spread the love people!
Give yourself permission to vent every once in a while
Let’s be honest, no one is perfect. So don’t think that you’re going to master these ideas overnight. It will take time and practice to get them down and make them your new routine. So along the way, cut yourself some slack and let it all hang out. If you need to get a few things off of your chest, do so in a way that you are releasing the negativity rather than wallowing in self-pity. End each ‘venting session’ with a takeaway, lesson, or solution.
So, there you have it — the roadmap to changing the way you speak, think, and encounter challenges. I encourage you to revisit this list when you’re feeling discouraged or struggling with a situation that’s breaking you down. Just remember that you have the power to change your attitude and can teach your brain that positivity is the default behavior and appropriate response to hardship.
So what do you think? Which of these ideas do you feel are the most valuable in your life right now? Let me know in the comments!
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