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This Kind of Communication Happens Once a Minute and It’s Bad for Your Health

interpersonal relationships bad examplesAccording to research, for the majority of people, the typical conversation includes one complaint per minute. That’s a lot of whining.

We all know someone who seems to love to complain. But did you also know that complaining is actually bad for your health?

When we complain on a regular basis, the neurons in our brain actually rewire so that complaining gets easier over time.

Repeated complaining also shrinks the area of our brain that’s responsible for problem-solving and intelligent thought, according to research from Stanford University.

And that’s just the direct effects on your brain; complaining also initiates the stress response, which over time and with chronic repetition impairs the immune and digestive systems, and increases our risk for diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

If complaining is this bad for us, why do we love to do it?

The simple answer is that it feels good – in the short term. Complaining can make us feel as though we have some control over a situation we find unpleasant or difficult. Unfortunately, once we make complaining a regular practice, it becomes more and more difficult to stop. We find it increasingly easier to be negative in situations than positive.

The detrimental effects of complaining, moreover, are not limited to the one doing the whining. Many of us may already suspect this from our own experiences around chronic complainers, and behavioral science backs us up. Being social creatures, we tend to unconsciously mimic the moods of those around us.

What then, is the antidote to complaining?

How do we retrain ourselves to find a healthier and more productive alternative?

That familiar phrase many of us heard growing up – if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all – may be wiser than we thought. If you feel the need to complain, instead try shifting your attention to something you feel grateful for.

Taking the time to think of reasons to be grateful not only interrupts the complaint track in your brain, it also counteracts the negative effects of stress when practiced regularly. In time, this new way of thinking will rewire those brain neurons into a happier, more positive pattern.

Of course, there may be occasions when a situation is truly worthy of complaint. The key at times like these is to engage in ‘solution-oriented complaining’, which looks like this:

Have a clear outcome in mind. If you can’t clearly identify a desired outcome or purpose for your complaint, don’t indulge the desire.

Begin and end with a positive. Starting your complaint with a compliment helps prevent the other person from becoming defensive. It also trains you to look for the good in the situation (gratitude), instead of only focusing on the negative.

Similarly, ending on a positive note, for example stating that you’re hopeful a resolution can be achieved, leaves the other person motivated to act on your complaint.

Be specific. Keep your complaint focused on the current situation only, and be as specific and objective as possible.

If you catch yourself complaining on a regular basis, why not give these tips a try? Breaking the complaining habit may just improve your health and your relationships!

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How to Challenge Your Unconscious Decisions and Transform Bad Habits.

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This Kind of Communication Happens Once a Minute and It’s Bad for Your Health

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2019). This Kind of Communication Happens Once a Minute and It’s Bad for Your Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Mar 2019
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