How and Why You Should Stop Complaining

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Complaining is a natural part of human communication. It is often a response to problems or a way to communicate dissatisfaction. Sometimes, however, people might find themselves wondering if they complain too much.

It’s probably not realistic to decide to never complain again, but setting limits can be beneficial. This article explores some of the reasons why people complain, the impact it can have on well-being, and steps to minimize daily complaints.

Why Do People Complain?

It can be helpful to better understand what causes this type of communication. People complain for a wide variety of reasons. Some factors that play a role:

  • Emotional regulation: Sometimes people complain as a way to manage their emotions. By venting their feelings, they hope to lessen the severity of these distressing emotions.
  • Mood: People may be more likely to complain when they are experiencing negative moods. The problem with this is that people complain more when they are in a bad mood. Their complaining then leads to further negative moods, creating a vicious cycle.
  • Personality: Research suggests that certain personality traits play a role in how frequently people complain. Perhaps not surprisingly, people who rate high on the trait called agreeableness are the least likely to complain.
  • Social factors: Other people can also influence how often people complain. Being around people who tend to complain a lot can make people more likely to air their own grievances. Shared complaining can also serve as a form of social bonding.

It’s not that most people sit around all day pointing out the negative in life—far from it. Most people may even actively seek to notice and talk about everything they have to be thankful for in life. Yet complaining is human nature.

Even people who frequently share special moments with loved ones, follow their passions in life, write about gratitude in a journal, or engage in other positive activities may still find themselves complaining more than they need to—and more than is healthy. 

Most people do need to express frustrations from time to time. People need to talk to loved ones about feelings, both positive and negative. They need to seek the opinions of those they trust when facing difficult choices or situations.

These actions can be positive, but it can also often involve sharing stories about problems. Sometimes that slips into excessive complaining or gossip—and that can be a slippery slope. A healthier form of complaining includes brainstorming solutions,

Recap

People complain for a wide variety of reasons, including because of their personality traits and to gain social support.

Do You Complain Too Much?

How do you know if you are complaining too much? It can be helpful to pay attention to your daily communication—whether in person, by text message, or another method. Notice how much of the content of your conversations is focused on complaints or negativity.

It's normal to notice that some of your daily communication involves dwelling on grievances or complaints. But if you notice a pattern that many of your words are focused on negativity, it may be a sign that you need to find a way to address your complaining.

Some signs that you might be complaining too much:

  • You air negativity but don't try to find any solutions
  • You often ruminate about past events
  • You experience a lot of regrets and wish you could go back and change things
  • You frequently experience feelings of anxiety
  • You're usually irritable after complaining
  • You have a negative mood and outlook on life
  • Talking about problems makes you feel helpless or hopeless

You may also notice that other people begin to pull away or avoid you because of your constant negativity. This can take a toll on your social support system.

Frequent complaining might also reduce the number of positive influences in your life. The people who do want to spend time with you tend to reinforce your negativity through co-rumination, or re-hashing past events over and over again.

Strategies to Become More Positive

If this rings true to you and you would like to renew your commitment to keeping things as positive as they can be, try he following plan to minimize complaining, maximize optimism, and reduce stress.

As you focus more on minimizing your complaining and maximizing your gratitude and excitement about life, you will likely feel a difference in your stress levels and your level of overall life satisfaction.

The first step is to become aware of complaining too much or slipping into rumination. The next step is to try something new. These proven strategies can help:

  • Journaling: Writing in a journal brings many health and wellness-related benefits. The trick to effective journaling is to write about the problem and your feelings about it, then brainstorm solutions and see the positives in your situation.
  • Seeking support: Social support is a great stress reliever, and if you're lucky, you have some supportive and wise people in your life to talk to when you're down. Instead of complaining to them, laugh with them. If you face a more significant challenge, tell them how you're feeling, get their thoughts (and maybe a hug), and move on to happier topics. No complaining necessary.
  • Remaining grateful: Counting your blessings can be a great way to get out of a bad mood or switch your focus away from your frustrations. It's hard to complain when you're thinking about how lucky you are.
  • Taking action: The urge to complain comes from dissatisfaction with something going on in life (often coupled with a feeling of inability to change it). Complaints can be a signal that action is needed. So, the next time you feel like complaining, instead focus on what you can do to change your circumstances—and then (if possible) do it.
  • Cultivating optimism: It's much easier to drop negative habits by replacing them with positive ones. Replacing negative thoughts and words with optimistic ones brings so many benefits. It's worth trying, even if you're not planning on giving up complaining anytime soon.

Recap

There are many strategies that can be helpful if you are trying to complain less. Journaling, finding support, solving problems, and boosting optimism are just a few tactics that might help.

When Is It Good to Complain?

Complaining isn't always a bad thing. When done effectively, complaining can actually have a beneficial impact on your well-being. The key is that it needs to be done in a certain way and for a specific purpose.

In a study published in the Journal of Social Psychology, researchers found that when people complain in order to achieve a certain result, they are happier than people who complain simply for the sake of complaining.

Such findings are consistent with other research on emotional expressions of frustration. While venting emotions is sometimes seen as a way to achieve catharsis, evidence shows that it makes negative emotions even worse in many cases.

This also holds true in online settings. Posting a negative review or rant might make you feel better momentarily, but studies show that focusing on these negative emotions worsens moods. Rather than releasing emotions, it tends to amplify them.

So what can you do to make complaining effective and productive? Some strategies that can help:

  • Advocate for yourself. Complaining with a purpose is essential, particularly when standing up for yourself at work or in a relationship. Constant griping in any situation is bound to create more stress and conflict, but strategic complaints that focus on finding practical solutions can make airing these grievances more useful.
  • Use complaining to gain clarity. Ruminating over past events can be harmful, but sometimes journaling or talking about things that are troubling you can help you process and gain clarity regarding your experiences.
  • Limit your complaints. Focus on keeping your daily communication primarily positive. When you do complain, do so mindfully and be aware of how it might negatively impact your mood. 
  • Avoid co-complaining. It might be tempting to let others reinforce your complaints, but spending a lot of time ruminating over your complaints with others can have negative effects. Instead, try to limit the amount of time you spend with people who complain a lot.

Recap

Complaining can be helpful at times, particularly when it is done mindfully in order to address a problem. By limiting your complaining and using it to advocate for yourself, you can make sure that it serves a purpose rather than dragging you down.

A Word From Verywell

Finding ways to reduce complaining can have a positive impact on your life and well-being. In addition to improving your relationships, it can also help you feel better about your life. When you do need to complain, remember to limit your complaints to problems that you are trying to solve. Ultimately, your life is what you make it and these strategies can help you make it more serene.

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5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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