You know those moments when you’re complaining, and your little internal voice starts to take a nosedive, bringing out your inner two year old? I’ve got a super, simple tip for you that will turn your complaining (and your mood) right around. Let’s do this!
Our brains can get away from us. They focus on the negative, getting caught up in our own stuff. Before we know it, we’ve lost perspective, and we’re camping out in Whine-ville. (Not to be confused with Wine-ville, because well, that one doesn’t sound so bad!)
If you can relate, if grumbling and complaining have ever gotten the best of you, then listen up. I’ve got an easy hack to stop this pattern in its tracks.
I want you to think about why you’re able to complain about this. What good or positive things make this situation that you’re complaining about possible?
This question is a play on gratitude. It’s an exercise in reframing, where in the midst of some major complaining, you stop to acknowledge some positives.
In the video, I shared the humorous but real way I use this to get through Chicago winters, particularly the dreaded task of snowblowing. Focusing on all the reasons I’m able to complain about snowblowing (ie., we own a home, we have a long driveway, we actually have a snowblower) helps me put my whining in perspective. This simple act usually nips my complaining in the bud.
Imagine you’re waiting at the doctor’s office. Your appointment was at 12:00 pm, but at 12:30 pm, there you sit, still waiting. If your internal dialogue is like most peoples, you’ll probably start grumbling in your head. “This is so annoying. I’ve been sitting here forever. What is taking so long? Doctors are so inconsiderate these days. I’m going to be late for my next appointment.”
While you might not actually say anything out loud, your brain is in full-fledged negativity mode. And if you’re not careful, this complaining will spiral.
So use the question from above. “What makes me able to complain about this? What makes this whining possible?”
I’m able to complain about this because I have health insurance. I’m able to complain about this because I have a flexible schedule or because I have sick/flex time. I’m able to complain about this because my doctor fit me in at the last minute.
Now let me be clear. I’m not advocating that you completely ignore whatever you’re complaining about. (Remember, I’m not a fan of positive thinking.) Of course, it’s annoying to sit and wait. But by choosing to turn your focus to other factors, your complaints quickly soften.
The simple question, “What makes me able to complain about this?” is a way to direct your brain to notice and name the good in an otherwise annoying situation.
Complaining takes energy. It’s draining. Even it though it might feel good in the moment, it’s not helpful. So when you find yourself complaining, focus on what makes your complaints possible.
Ready to practice? Think of a recent situation where you found yourself complaining. How could you have used this trick? What positives allowed you to be able to have that problem or complain about it in the first place?