A week without complaints

Hello, my name is Jeanne and I am a complainer.

In fact, and I do feel a bit proud of this, I complained about the length of the Mensa line for so long that when I stopped Ruth was smiling and waiting to take my card. That’s when I realized I had a problem.

The line in the Mensa, the test you just took or the person constantly sniffling in class—there is a lot to complain about, and as students we make the most of it, myself included.

This is why I decided to challenge myself to go cold turkey and stop complaining for a week. The rules were simple: from Saturday to Saturday nary a negative comment would pass my lips.

I imagined myself emerging from this experience with Gandhi-like wisdom and a minor in humanitarianism.

As it turns out though, not complaining is hard. Director of Counseling Services Stephanie Newsom said not complaining is like going against biology.

“We are wired for negativity. The average person has 45,000 negative thoughts a day. Isn’t that astounding? We have 60,000 thoughts total, and 45,000 of those are negative, way over half,” Newsom said.

Verbalizing those negative thoughts can lead to a never ending string of complaints, which not only can increase your likelihood of depression and negativity, but can be contagious to those around you as well, Newsom said.

“People can get tired of negativity. I also know that sometimes it feels like negativity can be contagious,” she said. “So one person in a group or a team or whatever bringing lots of negativity can sometimes be contagious and make that group sort of a sick, ill group.”

By Monday evening, I realized complaints were my go-to conversation starter. When asked by close friends about my day, I often began with, “You won’t believe what happened today.” Just call me Captain Gripe. I was there and ready to grumble.

As I held fast in my promise not to gripe, my eyes and ears were opened to several startling facts.

Certain social media apps like Facebook and Yik Yak can be like cesspits of negativity. Anxiety UK made a survey about social media use and how it affected the emotions of users. The survey found that 53 percent of participants said social media sites had changed their behavior, while 51 percent of these said the change had been negative. Follow people who aren’t habitual post complainers.

People form relationships solely based on loving to hate. Their bonding agent? Complaining. While common complaints can serve as icebreakers, a friendship founded on criticisms is not beneficial to either party.

And lastly, there is a difference between complaining and venting Newsom said.

“Venting is ‘I just need to process or talk through a situation that I am frustrated with or with someone’ and then you can move on. Complaining, when people sit around and complain, and the next time they sit with somebody new and complain about the same thing—it is a lot of negativity,” she said.

So while a venting session with friends can serve as stress relief, don’t allow it to become the only thing you do.

And now for a challenge: I challenge you to go 24 hours without complaining. You may go on a rant accidentally, but do not give up. Be mindful and follow actress Ann Bradford’s wisdom:

“Tell the negative committee that meets inside your head to sit down and shut up.”

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