You had a crummy day. Not much went right and you are exhausted. You find yourself in a Grinch mood. As a result, the rest of the day is spent complaining and venting.

In today’s world, people make a living out of complaining and venting. Just take a look at social media or watch the news. But should we complain? What does this do to our brain and mood? Apparently, it does a lot and it’s not positive.

Get ready to feel convicted. I am writing this because I know this is an area I need to work on in my own life.

How complaining becomes a habit: When you complain and become really good at it, myelin, a microscopic neural substance that forms around nerves in the brain increases. This substance adds speed and accuracy to your thoughts, strengthening neural pathways related to the skill of complaining. The more you do something over and over (complain), the more it becomes habit. Complaining is a habit that alters your brain.  Think of it like muscle memory.  Eventually, complaining becomes a default behavior. You’ve basically trained your neural pathways to complain!

OK, so I won’t complain, maybe just vent: That should be OK, right? Well, years ago, we used to tell people, when you feel bad, let it out. Just vent. We were wrong. Venting is no better. It makes a bad thing, a worse thing. You feel worse the more you vent. It doesn’t make you feel better like we originally thought. And venting seems to prolong those bad feelings as well.

OK, let’s go back to complaining: One of the impacts of complaining is that those around you feel bad too. Constant exposure to negativity reduces the neurons in the hippocampus, a part of the brain used for problem-solving and cognitive function. The more the people around you complain, the more you feel bad.

How do you turn this around if you are a complainer? Retrain your brain using these tips:

  1. Remember, you don’t have to complain. It is a choice you make every time you do it. If you want to break this habit, stop doing it. Starve that neural pathway!
  2. If there is a reason to complain (something bad happens), choose your response. You control your reaction, not what others do. You do not have to respond with a complaint.
  3. Instead of complaining, come up with a solution-what can you do to make the situation better? Do this over and over and it will become your new default. See the problem as a challenge to fix and stay positive.
  4. When those around you complain, listen. Focus on ways to improve the problem. Change the focus and don’t whine.

Now, from a Christian point of view, the Bible talks about complaining as grumbling and tells us to stop (Numbers 14:26-30; John 6:43; Philippians 2:14; James 5:9). Grumbling or complaining is based on the idea that God is not enough, in control or powerful in your life. It speaks to a lack of trust and God’s sovereignty. Instead of giving voice to complaint, trust that God is working in your life despite the difficulties you face.

We would do well to model our life after the Apostle Paul. He tells us to rejoice in our sufferings, knowing it brings endurance and patience. Hey, I am not saying this is easy to do. But the more we respond like Paul, we are retraining our brain.

God designed our brain. His admonition to stop complaining is supported by science. Complaining doesn’t serve the brain or your mood well. Yes, you can express dissatisfaction with hard things or difficult circumstances, but complaining, venting, and pointing the finger at others are bad habits most of us need to break.



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