Can Anyone Complain Themselves to Death?
The focus of this article is on learning to love the life you are living. Really enjoying the life you have sounds great, right? So can you think of anything more miserable than being around someone who always gripes and complains? Who never sees the bright side of anything? Who constantly looks for (and finds!) fault? There is some interesting news for those who are pursuing deliberate life changes, including (but certainly not limited to!) career, lifestyle, goal attainment, health, and wellbeing. While it’s unpleasant to be around arguing or complaining, studies now show that these two saboteurs have a much more significant effect than ever realized.
Before you start pointing fingers at the “Negative Nancy’s” around you, first begin by remembering that for every one finger pointed away at others, there are three directed straight back at you, the man or woman in the mirror. The research shows very little distinction between the toxic consequences of the negativity of those around you or the thoughts in your head; the results can be the same. So while we may be tempted to blame our environment, coworkers, and dysfunctional family, it’s important to realize that we must also take a close look at our self dialog and thoughts. The negative effects of arguing and complaining most often begin in our mind.
A toxic emotional environment can hurt you.
Emotional toxicity is not so different from physical poison. It may be easier to act fast if you get sick from food, mold, allergies, or bacteria but consider this: the health symptoms for an emotionally toxic environment are often the same:
· Brain fog, trouble concentrating, headaches and depression
· Respiration problems such as a constant cough, asthma, or mucous
· Acid reflux and heartburn, as well as ulcers and poor absorption
· Arthritis and fibromyalgia
· Hormone imbalances, even with unexplained weight loss or gain
· Digestion and elimination problems including constipation, diarrhea, and IBS
These symptoms frequently send people to the doctor, often for months of expensive and uncomfortable testing, tracking, and medication. And yet, the cause may not be so easily diagnosed.
What happens when you complain?
The first thing that is harmed by complaining is our mental health. People complain because they either want change or want to vent their frustrated feelings. From the complaint, two things generally occur: there is either validation or an argument. “But doesn’t complaining bring about change?” you might ask. The experts say no, it does not. In a report by Psychology Today, a series of studies was summarized this way:
“…we associate the act of complaining with venting far more than we do with problem-solving. As a result, we complain simply to get things off our chest, not to resolve problems or create change, rendering the vast majority of our complaints completely ineffective.”
So, our listener may validate our complaints, causing us to relive the negativity over and over again in order to feel that gratification. Or, they may argue with it, causing a spike in emotional toxicity that quickly raises the negative effect on our bodies, minds, goals, and outlook. When all that is found dissatisfying is repeated over and over again, the feelings of powerlessness magnify. The first result is feeling helpless, hopeless, victimized, and angry; the next step is often becoming physically ill.
Note: this is especially true if you are your own listener. The inner dialog you are having could become a toxic cycle that sucks you down!
How does anger hurt?
Everybody gets angry. The problem is not that you might feel frustrated or angry about justifiably irritating situations, but rather, how high you allow that emotion to go, how much you hold it in, how much you vent it out, and how long you let it stay.
Scientists now know that when we get angry, we experience a spike in the hormones adrenalin and cortisol. This sudden increase causes us to either “fight, flight, or freeze”; just about everyone has a preferred method of handling it. But what is also happening is that your blood pressure is rising and your vessels are constricting. If you repeat this frequently you are taxing your cardiovascular system. A study by the Cleveland Clinic of Psychological testing showed that anger hormones speed up a process called atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of fatty acids in the arteries. The same study showed a link between anxiety and depression with heart disease, concluding, “people who are angry a lot tend to have other chronic negative emotions as well.” (To read more on how to help reduce adrenalin and cortisol in your mind and body, see my blog on the Benefits of Meditation and 5 Healthy Lifestyles).
Is Negativity fatal?
Perhaps most compelling are the studies that suggest negativity might even kill you. In a controlled group of elderly men and women, pessimism was found to increase the risk factor for immune-related diseases, changing the T-cells. Another project compared those who were naturally optimistic against those who had a situational optimism: the researchers were interested in discovering if optimism aided in maintained focus on goal attainment. In other words, can you choose to be positive in order to accomplish a goal? Does being positive help you do it?
Here’s what they found:
· negativity promotes a “learned helplessness” and becomes a habitual pessimism
· Having negative expectations creates a negative internal environment
· Bad physical and mental health follows a pessimistic mindset
· Negative news affects us more strongly than positively worded items
· Pessimists have more problems during surgery and slower recoveries
· Negativity makes it harder to cope with stress
· Negativity harms your heart and overall health
· Pessimists are more likely to develop severe disease
Most enlightening from the study is that there is a distinction between those who have a disposition of optimism and those who create a situational optimism. Even if you are not naturally a “glass is half full” person, you can choose to be so. You can develop habits and choices that empower you to change your environment.
Build a new environment from the inside out.
Changing your life is a comprehensive process. If you want to love the life you are living, you must start by leaving no stone unturned. Ask yourself: do you complain too much? Are you are around people who constantly complain? Are you doing anything that encourages negative people to vent their emotions upon you? Do you let your emotions surge out of control? Remember that negativity is contagious. It spreads and brings people down. This means either others could be bringing you down or even that you are the one who never stops complaining. Finding your power begins in discovering the root of the problem. You can often reverse negativity through gratitude, building awareness, and choosing where you place your focus.