Complain Less and Be Happier
1 Aug

Complain Less and Be Happier

We can easily spot a complainer, but we rarely notice our own behavior, right? Yet, we all complain… sometimes without realizing it. It’s easy to complain but notice without action it changes nothing. We’ve all experienced the feeling or frustration of things not going as expected. However, did you know complaining can make us sick and unhappy? There is a healthy way to complain and an unhealthy way too. Let’s investigate.

We’ll begin by defining what we’re talking about…then look at who we complain to, why we complain, and how we can overcome its negativity.

Webster’s online dictionary states that complaining is grief, pain, or discontent.

It’s a statement of our dissatisfaction.

Have you noticed we feel freer to express negative comments more than ever before. Why is that? Research tells us that on average a person complains as much as 30 times a day. We complain to our kids, bosses, co-workers, salesclerks, even strangers. This emotional upset has become the norm. And it’s not problem solving either. In fact, complaints can quickly grow into criticism and rage…such as with traffic, rising prices, the weather, robocalls, customer service, politics, long lines, work related issues, rudeness, flight delays and more.

We’re quick to complain…yet it’s rarely helpful. Instead, sharing negativity can make things worse. In fact, research shows it has a negative impact on our well-being. It’s good to share our feelings if we want to solve a problem or discontent. However, when we complain yet we don’t take action for a resolution, it’s passive and unproductive. The truth is, most people complain to someone who doesn’t have the power to change the situation, i.e., possibly a partner, friend, or colleague.

In our modern society it’s not uncommon for us to use complaining to relate to each other. Yes, we’re also using it as a social tool to bond or feel more connected. In a world that’s becoming more disconnected and isolated, we’re desperate for human interaction. We’re using our dissatisfaction to connect with each other. We certainly see it on social media, but this kind of bonding can also prove costly.

If we don’t act to change things…complaining doesn’t change anything. It’s simply not constructive. Speaking up to resolve a problem is proactive and healthy but again, when we’re in the habit of complaining without taking action for change, it’s spreading negativity and it’s unhealthy.

Let’s take a look at a few reasons why we complain. Consider exploring what triggers you to complain and ask yourself which one of these reasons best describes your experience.

Common reasons why we complain. Consider these 5 possible triggers for dissatisfaction:

  • I want attention because I feel lonely.
  • I want to eliminate responsibility, so I use blame or victimhood.
  • I want others to be envious of me, but I don’t want to brag.
  • I want to feel or be more powerful.
  • I want to excuse poor performance by such things as creating a distraction.

*Less common is when we offer constructive complaints for a positive change. 

Now let’s go deeper and take a look at the root cause of our complaints. When we listen to our thoughts about a situation, we tend to believe our thoughts and follow them. That’s when we act on our dissatisfaction by complaining. Yet a complaint is the act of not accepting or not allowing the situation to be what it is. Notice, this is where we get stuck in the resistance to “what is” and it causes our suffering. When we don’t accept the situation, we can’t move forward to resolve it.

It’s true; we get stuck because we want something different. It’s a judgment and an unrealistic expectation. Life is in flux. Things are in constant change and it’s never going to be perfect when the ego gets involved. The ego tells us it should be different from the way it is. Yes, the narration in our head turns the situation into a judgment of good and bad…that is, us against them. This is the voice of fear, doubt, and confusion. It turns the situation into a problem.

Complaining doesn’t change anything, right? We all get frustrated at times when things don’t go the way we want them to go, but notice life is naturally neutral until our thoughts get involved. The source of all problems is mind-created. At the end of the day…we’re complaining because we have an unmet need, i.e., we want more or something different. The ego always wants more, but we don’t have to go along. It’s our life.

Remember, the complaints we have are about us and our thoughts, and not about the situation or the others involved. Without thoughts, it’s all neutral. Let’s consider an example. We all know, long lines at the DMV are common, but isn’t it a nice place to be where we’re out of the weather…especially lately on these hot summer days? Yet, our thoughts say: this is going to take forever, I have too many other things to do, this is nonsense, they don’t know what they’re doing, waiting isn’t ok, their rules don’t make sense, it’s not fair, etc. But notice the ego lies and the truth is…there are people all over the world who get up every day to serve us. That’s a lot to be grateful for. So, don’t fall for the ego’s tricks.

“Instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.” ~Proverb

Know this for sure, we’re better off accepting what happens in life, whether we like the situation or not. Once we can accept what is…we’re free to do something productive about it. We can be part of a change we want to see in the world. Being negative or resistant to what we have or don’t have blocks us from experiencing our wealth inside and out. This is how we end up in inner poverty. Situations often aren’t going to turn out the way we expect…but sometimes it’s better than expected. What do you think life would be like without expectations?

Trading happiness for what the inner critic says or complains about is just another trick. Not accepting the reality of what is happening in life…is the insanity of wanting something different than reality and it will only hold us back from what we want most.

“When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it.

All else is madness.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Remember, we can always act to change the situation towards making things better or towards the way we want it to be. We can be a catalyst for change.

Let’s apply what we’ve learned.

Next time you’re tempted to complain about a challenging situation…redirect your attention away from your thoughts and into the present moment by reconnecting to the aliveness of your breath. Allow what is. Know that you have a choice. Yes, you can use your inner boundaries to say no to the resistance, no to yourself, and no to the ego. Recognizing challenging thoughts and taking authority is the first step. Now ask yourself the following questions.

  1. What am I thinking? (notice your thoughts)
  2. What am I feeling?
  3. What do I need?
  4. How can I get it in a healthier way?

Consider journaling these questions…

  • Who do you complain to?
  • When do you catch yourself complaining?
  • How often do you complain?
  • When you complain, is it constructive for positive change?
  • What will you do different…next time you’re challenged?

Here’s an easy way to remember why we complain. Will Bowen offers the following GRIPE acronym.

  • G – Get attention
  • R – Remove Responsibility
  • I – Inspire Envy or Brag
  • P – Power
  • E – Excuse Poor Performance

Remember to give yourself grace as you grow and be proud of how far you’ve come. I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog. Please share it with someone. It just might be what they need to hear today. Come back for next month’s blog and…

For more insight, consider reading Chapter 9 “The Busy Mind” in my book: “Breaking Free from the Ego: A Course in Finding and Freeing Yourself”.

Be sure to check out the helpful links below for my monthly newsletter, book, website, earlier blogs, and other opportunities. 

About the Author – Trina Carroll-Houk is a spiritual teacher, counselor, and founder of Breaking Free Boundaries, LLC who specializes in self-awareness, mindfulness, and the spiritual dimension of being. Her goal is to help people improve their quality of life so they can experience inner peace, meaningful purpose, and greater fulfillment. Trina represents a movement focused on helping people release what limits them from living in a higher dimension of spiritual consciousness.

Checkout Trina’s book on most online retail sites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or BookBaby Bookshop: “Breaking Free from the Ego: A Course in Finding and Freeing Yourself.”