Research shows that most people complain once each minute during an average conversation, which creates strong patterns of negative thinking in the brain.
How does complaining wire your brain for negativity?
While complaining may be the most tempting form of relief at any given moment, just like smoking, drinking, and junk food, it isn’t good for you long-term. Your brain develops patterns from repetitive behavior, finding the most efficient route to access and store information. Each time that a thought process is repeated, the brain develops a stronger and stronger neuro-association to it, which eventually results in being wired to a habitual way of thinking.
“Neurons that fire together, wire together,” say scientists, explaining that it’s not the brain’s fault but rather its gift that can be used on the positive side as well. Repeated thinking creates such strong neural pathways in the brain that it becomes second nature over time. This is why it’s so important to make sure that you’re not conditioning yourself to stay negative every single day.
Does it affect your brain in any other way?
Research from Stanford University has shown that repetitive negative thinking can literally shrink the part of the brain known as the hippocampus, which is the part that is responsible for problem solving, logic, and calculative intelligence.
Alzheimer’s disease primarily destroys the same part of the brain, resulting in memory loss, problem-solving difficulties, difficulty completing familiar tasks, and confusion. This essentially implies that long-term negative thinking can have the same adverse effect as Alzheimer’s disease- a scary thought!
How does it affect your health?
Studies have shown that complaining increases the level of cortisol in your body, which is the hormone that pushes your body into a stressful survival mode. It drains vital organs of oxygen, blood, and energy and raises blood pressure and blood sugar to prepare you to escape a situation or defend yourself.
Over time, this can cause adrenal fatigue, a weakened immune system, hypertension, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, strokes, and heart disease.
How does it affect others?
Because human beings are social creatures, negative states can affect others negatively as well, dampening the entire mood of each person involved in the interaction. Just like other unhealthy habits, complaining requires a partner-in-crime, which makes it a damaging activity for everyone involved.
How to stop complaining?
Like any bad habit, it’s going to take effort to stop yourself from complaining and reinforcing negative thinking but it can be done. Here are four ways to start building the positive thinking bridges in your brain:
1. Practice Gratitude: Practice focusing all your energy on what you can be grateful for, even if it’s only the little things. A study conducted at the University of California found that an attitude of gratitude reduces cortisol levels by as much as 23%, which puts you on the right path to a healthier mind and a healthier body.
2. Monitor Your Thoughts: Become more conscious of your own thought process and catch the habit right at the source. This way, you can start to undo the strong neuro-associations that you have built through negative thinking and begin to replace it with something more positive.
3. Let Go of Control: While easier said than done, it’s important to let go of all of the things that are not in your direct control and to purposefully bend the things that are in your control to a positive place.
4. Become Solution-Orientated: Focusing on solutions instead of problems helps to create compelling, productive outcomes, which is a far more positive experience. No matter what happens to you in your life, try to always redirect your focus to what action you can take to produce a different outcome rather than dwell on what went wrong: this way, you’ll start seeing the power of positive thinking!