Complaining: Healthy or Unhealthy?

5 Apr

If you know me in real life, you know that I talk a lot. Sometimes, I think I just talk for the sake of talking. In that same vein, I’m pretty sure I sometimes complain just for the sake of complaining.

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I have been thinking about this lately, both in terms of the mental health implications and the impact on my relationships. Is complaining healthy? Does it help you to have a calmer state of mind, without the weight of your concerns, stresses, and emotions all weighing on you? I have always felt that it’s better for you to let it all out. Ranting and venting makes you feel better, but…what does it do to the people to whom you complain?

When I was in high school, my friend S told me that she felt like every time she talked to me, everything I was saying was negative or pessimistic. At first, I was angry! How dare she shatter my notions that I was an upbeat and optimistic person? But I later realized she was probably right and I felt grateful that she pointed it out to me. For a while, I tried to reign in my negativity and focus on the positive, both internally, in the way my thoughts were, and externally, in the way that I presented them to the world.

Of course, somewhere along the way, I totally forgot about that.

Your emotions and your thoughts have an impact on you and your state of mind, particularly when you keep them bottled up. However, when you put them out into the world, they’re not just disappearing. They’re affecting the people around you. They might be making the other person cranky, frustrated, or sad. They might be creating contempt, annoyance, or distaste for the object of your complaints where there previously was none. They might even be making the other person reconsider his or her opinions of you and your junky attitude, causing them to develop contempt, annoyance, or distaste for you.

In short, do I really need to analyze and log away all the slightly negative feelings I might run across during class or during work or during a meeting so that I can rant about them later? Are they really that vexing? Or should I just let them go? Unless they are truly pressing and something can be done to change them, then why hang onto them? If I let my irritations and frustrations go shortly after noticing and acknowledging them, then I won’t have a need to get them off my chest because I won’t be storing them up for future reference.

Takeaway lesson – complain carefully in moderation, particularly where and when it will have a positive impact.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my revelation for the day.

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