Welcome to August! Summer is in full swing now and although summer always brings a thrill in the beginning often, as with many things, as the season rolls on our attitude begins to shift. For example, here in the Southwest we greet summer with mixed emotions. We accept it is going to be hot but, “Hooray!!!! It is summer,” time for the lakes, pools and trips up north. But by August, we are cursing the sweltering heat (and each other), tired of brushing monsoon dust out of the pool and begging for winter to arrive so that cold water will once again flow from our faucets.
And so it goes with many things in our lives. We never quite seem to be happy. We always have something to complain about whether it be our jobs, relationships, our body, finances, the weather, etc.
There is a myriad of research that tells us the more we complain the more likely we are to experience physical as well as mental health issues. Chronic complaining can result in increased blood pressure, increased cortisol levels in the blood (which can cause increased weight and lower immune function) and can impair our ability to find useful solutions to our problems. And if you think you are the only one affected you are wrong because the effects of “second-hand” complaining are just as serious.
The Law of Attraction also tells us that what we focus on, especially with emotion (and let’s face it there is usually a lot of emotion involved in complaining), is what we will receive more of. So, the more time and emotion you put into complaining about the terrible drivers on the freeway the more terrible drivers you will encounter.
With this in mind, I present to you your August WellWork assignment. This month I challenge you to go the whole month without complaining. Yes, that’s right the whole month.
Before your say to yourself, “That’s crazy, it can’t be done!!! No one can go a whole month without complaining!” Consider this, what if it wasn’t a challenge or an obstacle to be overcome but rather an opportunity to conduct an experiment to observe the ways in which your life and the lives of those around you change. Put this way it sounds much less difficult and intimidating and a lot more fun and interesting.
So, how do you “stop” complaining.
- First, just stop. There are some things you can simply quit complaining about. The long line at the coffee shop isn’t going to get shorter the more you huff about it and it won’t be any shorter tomorrow if you huff about it all day long. Just let it go and move on.
- Second, laugh. I can recall going to a movie with a friend. Neither of us liked the film but rather than spend the next several hours rehashing how terrible it was my friend said, “Well, that’s 2 hours of our life we’ll never get back.” We laughed and to this day we still use that phrase if we feel like we have unwisely used our time.
- Next, reframe the experience. As I did with the introduction to this month’s WellWork changing it from a challenge to an experiment, you too can reframe circumstances you might ordinarily complain about. A problem becomes an opportunity to develop a new way of implementing policy, a difficult client becomes someone who teaches you patience, rather than complaining to a neighbor about an issue you instead request that they do something.
I am not suggesting you become a compliant pushover. If you go out to dinner and you receive bad food I’m not telling you to laugh it off and say, “Ah well, this is will be an excellent way to learn what it is like to have salmonella.” However, there is a big difference between spending an hour on the phone grumbling to a friend about how your husband, “NEVER, takes out the garbage,” and politely and respectfully asking him to take out the trash.
So there you go, for the next 31 days make a concerted effort not to complain. You may not be perfect (at first) but the idea of the exercise is to create awareness and to give you a chance to see how people, experiences and circumstances can change when you do less complaining and more positive thinking. You may even try tracking your experiences as you go so you can look back and see the changes as you progress.
Good luck, have fun and as always I encourage you to post your comments and experiences.