Don't listen to Eeyore

It’s easy to get pulled down the rabbit-hole of negativity. But it comes at a cost.

Learning to navigate life’s rapidly changing landscape can be overwhelming. Being awake and conscious of our habits might never have mattered more than it does now.

Taking an honest look at our tendencies, and changing negative habits is vital to a happy, healthy life.

What’s your general outlook on life?

Are you a pessimist, or optimist, or somewhere in between? And, does it even matter? How do you feel around someone who loves to complain?

For chronic complainers, even joyous events offer opportunities to complain. No matter what’s happening, they find the down-side, as their inner Eeyore surfaces.

Even small inconveniences present ripe opportunities to complain and spread the negativity virus to anyone who’ll listen. 

These days seem to offer a banquet of possibility for those addicted to complaining. 

I used to be one of those who loved to complain, and am grateful I’ve awakened to its cost. 

Brain science reveals this common habit of complaining can be addictive, and it comes at a cost to our emotional health and intelligence. Habits of mind have consequences for our physical health, for the better or the worse. 

Chronic complaining creates stress in the body, weakening immune systems, raising blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other stress-related maladies. 

Research suggests complaining, or even listening to complaints, for 30-minutes a day can physically damage our brains. Chronic complaining makes us sick, maybe even dumber, and people are less likely to want to be around us.

Neurons that fire together, wire together. Feeding negative thoughts strengthens those habits of mind, making it more likely we’ll continue down the same trend of thought in the future. It’s like a virus of mind that grows stronger.

I’ve known folks who can rain on even the best parade. They suck the joy out of any situation. It’s just the way they’re wired. The good news, and the bad news is they’re the only ones who can change their circuitry. 

We don’t have to be a victim to our thoughts. The plastic or changeable nature of our brains makes it possible for us to rewire them for the better or the worse. Just because we may have practised negative thinking for years doesn’t mean we can’t change that wiring.

There’re many strategies for overcoming the tendency to complain, and they all start with awareness; waking up and noticing our habits of mind.

Years ago, I participated in a no-more-complaints campaign. It was enlightening. We wore bracelets to remind us of our tendency to complain, whether silently or out loud. In practice, we changed the bracelet to the opposite arm when we complained, or noticed a negative thought.

Initially, I was changing my bracelet so constantly, it was sadly laughable. I had an inner complainer who’d been running more of my life than I’d care to admit.

Over time and with awareness, the tendency to complain diminished, and I started to notice more of the good in my life and the world. I was happier.

My bracelet no longer exists, but if I slip back into the  complaining habit, an elastic-band is all I need. 

Another practice that helped re-wire my tendency to complain was practising gratitude. Science also supports this practice. Every night, I write in my gratitude journal, and increasingly, I find myself looking for the good during the day to record at bed-time. 

Funny how I now find much more of the good than the bad; I see more to praise than to complain about. I like how this feels in my mind and know my body and heath appreciate it. 

Being gentle, patient, and kind with ourselves as we undertake these practices is essential. Engaging in negative self-talk, as we notice our negative tendencies, only adds to the problem.

Reducing our tendency to complain goes a long way to improving our health, happiness and relationships. All you need is an elastic band and a gentle sense of humour. 


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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