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CULTURE

Are You a Super-Complainer?

How to know when your daily complaints are causing others pain.

Whatever background you come from, and however much luck you have, complaining is a part of being human. Show me a person who has never once complained and I'll bet they're not from this planet. Things make us frustrated all of the time—when the cheese on our pizza sticks to the top of the box, when there's an unfathomably long line at the bathroom. The light's too dim, the soup's not hot enough, the crossword puzzle is too hard! (Yes, some of us still do crosswords.) There are endless things to complain about because the world is imperfect, and so are we. While everyone is taught very young to "be happy with what you have" and "put yourself into other people's shoes" and all of that nice stuff, sometimes, life just gets overwhelming. Like when you're one coffee spill away from a meltdown. Here's when it becomes a problem.

A super-complainer is someone who cannot keep their complaining in check. Someone, who for every happening good or bad, has something negative to say. They're ruminators, skeptics, and conspiracy theorists. But there is a very logical reason why we complain. It's called "commiseration." Being miserable, together! Yay! Sounds fun, right? Commiseration is designed to help us vent about our deepest (and shallowest) problems in order to get some mutual support. "I know how you feel when someone steals your seat at the library!" "I hate soggy cereal too!" But pretty quickly, your problem-ping-pong can turn into a pretty nasty game of negativity.

Negativity is not only boring, but it's bad for the soul and the brain. According to what you learned in Neuroscience 101, "neurons that fire together, wire together." it suggests that once you start complaining, it's easy to keep going. Negativity and complaining also indicates that your cortisol levels are on the rise (this means stress), and we all know that stress isn't so great for the body and mind in large doses.

The first step to combatting complaints is awareness. Sometimes complaints come so naturally, we're wondering why everyone is canceling plans on us all of a sudden. It does help to consider how many great things we have in life. Isn't it great that we have soup, even if it's too hot? It will cool down! Having a positive outlook makes things magically easier to deal with. If you go into a situation knowing that it will be annoying, you're setting yourself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if you go in assuming nothing and saying "I'm excited" to yourself before your dentist appointment, you'll start to see how much more pleasant it will be.

You don't have to be a super-complainer just because it's easy. Less ruminating and more doing will help you stay positive.

Try this exercise.

Record yourself having a short conversation with a friend. Play back the recording, and stop it every time you say something negative. Count the number of times and tally it up. The next day, record a conversation with a different friend and do the same thing. You should be more aware of your complaints and actively trying to stay positive. Pretty soon, it will become as natural as complaining used to be.





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