How and Why You Should Stop Complaining


I recently resolved to stop complaining. It’s probably not realistic to decide to never complain again, but I’m challenging myself to stop for several weeks and then maintain a much less complaint-ridden existence thereafter. Because I, unfortunately, could use a refresher course in not complaining.

It’s not that I (or most people) sit around all day pointing out the negative in life—far from it! Most of us may even actively seek to notice and talk about everything we have to be thankful for in life. We may even frequently share special moments with loved ones, follow our passions in life, write about gratitude in a journal, or engage in other positive activities. But, we still find ourselves complaining more than we need to—and more than is healthy. 

Most of us do need to vent frustrations from time to time and, hopefully, this is done in the context of brainstorming solutions. We need to talk to loved ones about feelings, both positive and negative. We need to seek the opinions of those we trust when facing difficult choices or situations. And this 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.  

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, the following plan to minimize complaining and maximize optimism can work well for you. The first step is to become aware when you are complaining too much or slipping into rumination. The next step is to try something new. The following proven strategies can help:

  • Thought-stopping. This is a technique that many therapists recommend for a variety of issues because it works well. When an undesirable thought enters your head, you literally interrupt it with the mental image of a stop sign or the word “stop!” and move on to a different thought.
  • Journaling. Writing in a journal brings many health and wellness-related benefits. (Read more about the benefits of journaling.) The trick to effective journaling is to write about the problem and your feelings about it and then brainstorm solutions and see the positives in your situation.
  • Seeking support. I love social support as a stress reliever and am lucky to have some very supportive and wise people in my life to talk to when I’m down. Instead of complaining to them, I’ll laugh with them. If I face a bigger challenge, I’ll tell them how I’m feeling, get their thoughts (and maybe a hug), and then move on to happier topics. No complaining necessary.
  • Remaining grateful. Counting my blessings is one of my favorite ways to get out of a bad mood or switch my focus away from the annoying things in life. And it’s hard to complain when you’re thinking about how lucky you are! (Read more on the benefits of gratitude and how to cultivate it.)
  • Taking action. The urge to complain comes from a dissatisfaction with something that’s going on in one’s life (often coupled with a feeling of inability to change it). Complaints can be a signal that action is needed. So, the next time I feel like complaining, I’ll instead focus on what I can do to change my circumstances—and then (if possible) do it!
  • Cultivating optimism. It’s much easier to drop negative habits by replacing them with positive ones. (In fact, many experts say that this is the only effective way to do it!) 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. (Read more on the benefits of optimism and find out how you can foster an optimistic outlook.)

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. Others will notice and comment if you make significant changes. Ultimately, your life is what you make it and these strategies can help you make it more serene.