For a society that hates incessant whingers, we certainly like to dip a toe in ourselves every now and then. Sure, complaining to a colleagueÂ about a mutualÂ shit-stormÂ creates solidarity and makes you feel youâ€™re not alone in your frustrations. But, as you might not expect,Â the more you complain, discuss and dwell on a negative situation, the longer the effect of the negative experience, as shown in this particular study of 112 subjects from the European Journal of Work and Organisational Psychology.
Despite its potential negatives, complaining is rampant nevertheless.
â€œComplaining allows us to achieve desired outcomes such as sympathy and attention,â€ explains psychology professor from Clemson University Robin M. Kowalski. â€œThe truth is, everybody does it.â€
But instead of mindlessly piling up your grievances, ready to dump on the closest unsuspecting human, consider whether you’re complaining for complaining’s sake, or to release a little steam before letting it go. â€œSo much of happiness is intentional,â€ Robin explains. â€œWeâ€™re not born happy, but we can actively engage in activities that make us feel good.â€
In the spirit of working towards changing those situations which youâ€™re tempted to whinge about, here are a couple of ways to â€˜complainâ€™ that are actually constructive:
Complain with purpose
Crucially, in this study, Robin explains that complaining with a sense of purpose â€“ or, mindfulness, if you will â€“ can sometimes be the difference between a whinge that ends with a sense of closure, as opposed to something that only causes you to furtherÂ dwell. Know your reasons for complaining before you begin â€“ are you just trying to get something off your chest, or actually find a solution?
â€œFor [mindful] people, there is likely to be little relationship between venting and dwelling because they arenâ€™t going to dwell,â€ Robin says.
Be open to problem-solving
AÂ lot of the time we wander consequence-less in our fury, but it could be time to consider potential solutions, especially for a situation thatâ€™s ongoing. As psychiatrist Eric BerneÂ pointed out in his 1964 book,Â Games People Play, a lot of us see complaining as a venting exercise rather than a way to actually secure a desired outcome.
Some days, you just want a release, but, once in a while, consider the interjections of your spouse or friend if they try and offer solutions. You never know â€“ you might just find a way to permanently quit that groaning.
Journal one every so often
There is such a thing as negativity fatigue â€“ you know that feeling when youâ€™re hearing, for the umpteenth time, the same complaint from your friend? Donâ€™t do it to the people around you. Try penningÂ your frustrations. Not only is it kind toÂ your friends and family, itâ€™s also incredibly helpful for your own stress levels (studies even show how it can improve physical health in addition to mental health).