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Amira McLaughlin

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We’ve talked about complaining and what it does to your brain. You’ve learned that constant negative thinking creates neural pathways within your brain to more readily support those kinds of thought patterns, making it easier to fall into a habit of this type of thinking. Once that kind of pattern is in place, it’s hard to deviate from it and begin to think more positively and to look for solutions. It makes sense that there might be a link between complaining, or chronically looking at the downside, and mental health issues like depression. Today, I’d like to explore the connection between complaining and depression and to talk to you about ways to break free of the cycle. 

Complaining and the Brain

Let’s refresh ourselves a bit on the ways that complaining effects your brain. The pathways within our brains are created with neurons that are bridged by synapses. It’s these synapses that allow communication to occur between neurons. Connections are being created constantly within your mind. Each time you think or learn something new, a different pathway will form. The more often you engage in a thought or activity, the stronger and more automatic a connection becomes. This is what I’m referring to when I say that negative thinking leads to more negativity, creating a pattern or cycle that is hard to break. However, through a concept known as neuroplasticity, it is possible for the neural pathways within the brain to change and for new patterns to form. 

Complaining and Depression

There are a number of schools of thought within the field of psychology related to the concept that your thoughts define your feelings, which then affect your behavior. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is just one common therapeutic approach that is based upon this premise. Counselors who practice this form of therapy with their clients focus on re-framing or changing negative thoughts or internal messages in order to, in turn, change the unhealthy behaviors that are being displayed. This theory is relevant in the case of complaining. Complaining is nothing but venting of frustration. There is no proactive or strategic component involved, simply a slew of negative statements. In the case of chronic complaining, you’re forging pathways within your brain to continue such thinking. Then, these messages you’re giving yourself lead to feeling sad, or worse, to symptoms of clinical depression. With depression come behavioral symptoms like sleep problems, social isolation, loss of interest in things once loved and even suicidal ideations. 

How to Break the Cycle

In order to feel better, you need to end the cycle of negativity and complaining. I know it’s not all that simple, but there are some steps you can take toward making it happen. We’ve talked already about gratitude and the role it plays in contentment. Try to write down a few things you’re grateful for each day. Start to notice the small things you’ve got going for you in your life. In addition, the next time you find yourself complaining, make an attempt to catch yourself in the act and work to find a solution to your complaint. Doing so, even in the smallest way, will help you to feel empowered and more in control. This will lead you to be more apt to search for more solutions, compounding the beneficial effects. Re-frame the message you’re giving yourself when you complain. See if you can’t put a more positive spin on your frustration or the issue at hand. When you feel you must complain, do so in a proactive way that works to get results. Look back on our post about lodging a legitimate complaint for a refresher on how this works. 

Complaining affects your overall mood. It can become a pattern that leads to a downward spiral of emotions. It’s even possible that depression and anxiety could develop as a result of the stream of negative messages you’re sending yourself. Give the tips in this article a try and remember that positive thinking also creates patterns within the brain. You can change the ways in which you think and feel. 

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