Sometimes, we feel like we just need to vent. After a tough day, ranting to your friends and family can be a relief.
Unfortunately, complaining can do more harm than good. In addition to influencing your friends’ moods, complaining can actually affect your body. Frequent complaining brings physiological changes, but luckily, these changes are reversible. In fact, the physical symptoms from complaining , such as stress, poor sleep, and the brain’s rewiring to be pessimistic, are completely preventable.
Sounding off your frustrations seems like it would relieve stress, but it does the opposite. Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, says complaining releases cortisol, otherwise known as the “stress hormone.” Cortisol is linked with several other physical health issues, including weight gain, lower immune function, and high blood pressure.
In a Berkeley study for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found those who consciously practiced gratitude chose to spend more time exercising than those who complained.
Instead of releasing your tension on anyone who will listen, try regular physical activity. Aerobic exercises, such as running, kickboxing, or cycling, give the added benefit of reducing cortisol.
Poor sleep quality
As it turns out, whining about your problems during the day can affect you at night. In the same Berkeley study, those who practiced gratitude slept longer and had a better quality of sleep than those who expressed annoyance or frustration. Moreover, the positive thinkers reported feeling more refreshed in the morning and had a better start for the day.
Mulling over your complaints at night will make falling asleep harder. “When you feel like complaining, shift your attention to something you’re grateful for,” suggests Bradberry. Try reflecting on the positive to find peace before bedtime.
Disconnect with others
In two other studies on gratitude from Berkeley, complainers reported feeling more isolated from others than those who chose to be appreciative. Although gossiping with a coworker about office problems can be tempting, ultimately the grumblers will feel less connected than the grateful.
The next time you chat with your coworker, ask them about their interests and goals. By finding common ground that isn’t a gripe, you can still bond with your peers without focusing on what frustrates you.
More likely to be pessimistic next time
Every time you complain, your brain creates shortcuts to think more pessimistically. Therefore, when you verbalize a gloomy idea, your brain wires you to accept new information negatively, according to a 2007 study published in Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. Your complaints in the present affect your future perspective.
To adjust your mindset, release what you can’t control and focus on what you can. You may not be able to change someone else, but one thing’s for sure: you do have the power to change yourself.