Blog Mental

Stop complaining and do something about it

Not complaining
-15C Husky Sledding. Not complaining.

For a year or so I’ve been looking at making my life simpler and less stressful. One of the ways of doing this is that I have stopped complaining about stuff I can’t control.

There are a couple of things I say regularly that summarise how I go about this –

“It is what it is”


“Control what you can control”

If you’ve decided to go to Dubai in August, don’t complain about it being hot.

If you’re skiing in the Arctic Circle where the temperature is -15 degrees C and you’re cold. Stop complaining and do something to change it. Put on more layers. Go inside the hiker’s hut and warm up by the fire. Buy some better gloves. (See pic at top)

Had a bad run? Suck it up. Think and learn. Was it lack of recovery, poor hydration, the beers and curry the night before? There’s probably something. If not, just go and smash it tomorrow.

Still struggling with press ups? Maybe you should focus on it a little more and do some reps.

Tired every morning? Go to bed earlier and get your routine sorted. Could it be something else? Sleep is too important to miss.

Knee still playing up? Stop running and go see a doctor.

Got a hangover and feel dreadful? Hmm, I don’t really have to explain this one.

Most of the examples above are all within your control. Yes, sitting on your high horse with the benefit of hindsight makes it sound really easy. But, it is easy or you could make it easier. You just have to change your thinking and have a little forethought.

Complaining is bad for you

Complaining feels good momentarily. However, it’s actually bad for your mental and physical health. When you complain the body releases cortisol, the stress hormone that aids your fight or flight response. Whilst this response was very useful to paleolithic man when he was chasing down his paleo diet, the majority of the time in the modern world it’s doing damage by affecting your immune system making you susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Have you heard this saying?

“Neurons that fire together, wire together.”

This can work in a positive way when learning new skills and trying to improve them. The more you repeat an action or response, the more efficient your brain becomes, as neurons branch out to each other to ease the flow of information. Soon, the response becomes automatic, you don’t need to think about it and you don’t even realize you’re doing it.

The neutrons can also grow due to negative behaviour. The more you complain, the easier it gets to complain as your brain rewires and before you know it, it becomes automatic. Complaining becomes a habit.

Cortisol also damages the hippocampus, the part of the brain that plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory. The hippocampus is the first location to suffer damage as part of Alzheimer’s disease.

What can you do?

Ask yourself a few questions.

Do you know why are you complaining? Does it have a purpose? Is it going to change the situation? If the answer is no, then that’s the complaining you want to avoid.

Is it anything you have any control over? Do you really need to give a F? Is it worth your time?

Do your friends and acquaintances need to hear your negativity? You could acknowledge it and then take some action. Or start with a positive. For example – This place is beautiful and I’m happy to be here, but it’s a bit cold.

I started the post talking about making life simpler. If you don’t spend time on things you can’t control, you can focus on the things you actually can control, you have some influence over and that doesn’t affect your health.

Instead of complaining, take a second to think. Are you complaining for complaining sake? If so, find a solution and be positive.

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