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2020-03-20

Comparing’s uglier sister, complaining

“Complaining: the expression of dissatisfaction or annoyance about something.” Oxford Dictionary

Doesn’t that sound innocent? To me it even sounds healthy, expressing something you feel dissatisfied of annoyed about. Isn’t it just normal to do so? Is it really wrong to say out loud something you don’t feel happy about? Surely I can’t be perfectly content all of the time, can I? It’s just not realistic. I agree (with me)!

But the point here is not perfection (boring!), but it is worth weighing up the pros and cons of any given behavior and check in every now and again to see if it’s really the best choice to make. Enter winter of 2019/2020 in The Netherlands (please remember I am from sunny South-Africa). Okay, I know all of you have Covid-19 on your minds now, but I think it’s worth taking a break from discussing that every day for 15 minutes or so.

So back to winter. Boy, this winter sucked. Before we moved to the Netherlands, people kept telling me how horrible the weather is and after 18 months of living here, I didn’t really get it, because the summers have been really hot and the previous winter was sunny and pretty with some ice and snow. Then came this winter, boy. It was grey and windy and rainy nearly every, single day! It just doesn’t stop for months and months. The first couple of months I was still strong, no complaints. I mean the weather is the weather, you just have to go with it, that’s my motto. But came January and I was like: “Okay, seriously, just one day where the sun shines for more than 10 minutes, is that too much to ask?” Since then I have cultivated complaining about this winter every time I get the chance. I always say it very matter-of-factly, like I am above it, but really, I am complaining. Now, if you read my blog about comparing, the following will sound familiar. Recently I have been observing these complaints and trying to notice what the consequence of this complaining about the weather is.

And you know what? It’s not that great! I observed that I am looking forward less to my usually fun walks with my labrador, Marula. I wanted to stay in bed longer and stay indoors more than usual (and not because of Covid-19, which would have been the good reason). I noticed that I checked my weather app WAY more than I usually do and I generally had a irritated feeling about the weather.

Now, you might think I am overreacting and it’s not that bad and maybe you are right. But the point of life for me is to enjoy it and be a generally happy person and this little, small, innocent complaint was making me less happy. Now, if you are able to complain about something and it doesn’t affect you mood much, then, well, still stop and observe if you aren’t maybe affecting someone else’s happiness. None of us are islands. The point I am trying to make is that even though we are sometimes very justified in our complaints and it seems innocent, if we stop and really look for the consequences, we might be surprised at what we find. So, without further a due.

My steps to stop complaining:

1) Stop: When you catch yourself complaining, stop in the moment, interrupt yourself. Remember to be honest with yourself, don’t try and justify it.

2) Notice: Try looking at yourself complaining objectively. Even try and imagine someone else complaining to you (about the weather) and notice the feelings you feel. Also try and notice any direct behavioral consequences which might be a result of you complaint(s).

3) Replace: Whenever we try and break a behavioral habit, it’s always necessary to replace the old habit with the new one. The habit loop has to be interrupted but very important is to teach the brain a new behavior to follow instead. My weapon of choice is cheering. What do I mean by that? Well, instead of complaining about something, try cheering for something in stead. Imagine yourself as one of these American cheerleaders going all out. Choose something you are thankful for or you might even try cheering about the very thing you were complaining about. Whatever seems possible to you in that moment, do it.

4) Notice_V2: Now notice your feeling(s) again. Even notice your body. How does it compare to how you felt during the complaining behavior? Different? The same? Silly? It doesn’t really matter, we’re not looking for a specific result here, just notice.

5) Repeat: Now, it goes without saying, you have to repeat the process. Remember it takes long to read it, but it only takes max a couple of minutes to execute it. The more you replace and notice, the quicker you can get rid of the complaining cancer and be healthier.

I hope you enjoyed the post! Leave a comment and let me know what you think about complaining. Is it really a bad habit or something we should try to stop doing?

Take care of yourself, you’re worth it!

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