How to Stop Complaining and Lead a Happier Life

Mud?  What mud?  No complaints when you're having fun!
Mud? What mud? No complaints when you’re having fun!

You know what?  I complain a lot and I do it in one of the worst ways.  I use my personal Facebook account as my platform for complaining.  (Don’t worry my privacy settings are as tight as I can make them).  I complain about my day job (just to make sure I’m not going crazy… I’ve been at my job so long the line between sane and insane is kinda blurry), my health woes, problems that pop up in life, my day job some more, not having enough time for everything (probably because I’m too busy complaining!), homeowner issues, oh and did I mention my day job?  You know, basically every day stuff people deal with and probably don’t want to read about or listen to; especially on Facebook where everyone tries to paint their world in rainbows and pretty colors.  Although Web MD says complaining is an integral part of our daily lives and the quote in the article that says, “For some people, speaking out against whatever bothers them is a way of asserting I matter!” really rings true…  Still, I don’t want to be the batty old woman no one can stand.  So what can we do?

Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t complain at all.  Heck no.  That would be like injecting chemical cleaners into your blood and then smiling as you go about your daily life.  That is, for however long you can make it until your body gives up.  I just think we need to tone it down because complaining is like a virus that spreads as easily as opening your mouth (or moving your fingers).  And that negativity is draining and hard to eradicate.

So here’s what I propose in three simple steps:

1. First, figure out why you’re complaining.

Some people talk to solve problems (doer) and some people talk to understand problems (thinker).  Which are you?  I start out a thinker, so I can have a better grasp of why I am upset, which allows me to transition into being a doer, so I can make a change.  Some people though, just want to jump right in and solve the problem first, which is fine.  As long as you give people a heads up like “I need to vent” (thinkers) or “I don’t know what to do” (doers), so they don’t think you’re just complaining to complain.

Here’s an exercise to try that may help alleviate some of that frustration, while helping you figure out why you’re complaining.  Write down everything that’s bothering you.  From the little things like my husband leaves the lights on when he’s not in a room to the big things like I hate my job.  Now pick you’re top three that are most bothering you.  Got ’em?  Good.  Let’s move on to step two.

2. Then tell people what you specifically need.

Once you figure out why you’re complaining then you’re better prepared to ask for specific things you need.  When you ask for specific things people are more able to solve what bothers you.  As opposed to generalized statements that don’t give insight into what you need.  For example: instead of saying, “I’m cold”, try saying something like, “Please turn on the heat”.  Or instead of “I hate my job” say “I need help drafting my cover letter” or “Can you help me brainstorm other possible careers?”.

Now that you have your top three complaints list off the things that you could do to improve the situation.  Let’s say you picked “I hate my job”.  Okay, so what’s a specific thing you can do to make it better?  You could ask for more challenging projects.  You could change departments.  You could update your resume and get in touch with your network.  The more specific the better.  And if you need help with something, make sure you tell others.  Let’s move on to the last step.

3.  Take steps towards change. 

Send out that cover letter and resume.  Turn up the heat.  Tell your husband directly and specifically what is bothering you.  Harness all that pent-up energy from complaining and divert it towards something useful.  Instead of having a venting session, go for a run or walk (bonus fuzzy feel-good chemicals will increase your happiness and probably help you complain less).  Or instead of ruminating about all the “bad” things in your life, do something you enjoy.  Read, bake, dance… whatever makes you feel good.

So now that you have your list of what is bothering you, ideas for how you can change things… go do it.  Implement those ideas and take steps towards leading a happier more fulfilled life.  You can do it!  Or maybe you’ll realize most of your list is not that big a deal.  And maybe if you change just one thing, that top thing that you complain about all the damn time, then everything else will fade away.  You never know what will happen till you take the steps to change.

As for me… for 30 days I’m not going to complain on my personal Facebook and with everything else (i.e. verbally) I’m going to limit myself to two complaints a day.  Good, big, need to get this out before I explode complaints.  None of the petty crap.  But I am going to allow myself an exception… I can complain about anything only after I take immediate action to change things.  Otherwise, I’m hoping to use all the pent-up frustration and channel it into my writing.  We’ll see how this goes.  I’ll let you know next month.

Do you find yourself complaining too much?  What do you often complain about?

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