I loved talking to Dr. Rick Hanson a few years ago about neuroplasticity. The basic concept is that our brain likes to be efficient, so the brain focuses on what we tell it is important and wires together circuits to help us more effectively focus on what we choose to focus on. This science makes sense to me and I love how we have the power to change our thinking by consciously creating new pathways in our minds.
The challenge is, we are often unconsciously focused on negativity. Travis Bradberry posits that we “complain once a minute during a typical conversation.” This does not take into account how often we replay the negativity and fears in our own mental monkey chatter throughout the day. If what we focus on becomes hard-wired, how much negativity are we programming into our brains – and into our lives? Additionally, in the article Travis Bradberry shows how focusing on this negativity does not only affect our quality of life but it affects how our brain functions – or doesn’t function – overall.
What is to be done?
First, quit your bitching. Complaining to complain does not solve anything. As a society, we have made a ritual of sharing our negativity to bond, but it is not helping us as a society. Complaining makes us focus on lack, focusing on lack makes us feel hopeless, feeling hopeless makes us act as if we are powerless. Not a good downward cycle to be in. Instead, throughout your day, see if you can limit the time you spend talking about your woes or feeding the woes of others.
Second, choose who and how you share. Brené Brown discussed with Oprah who to share your shame story with and I think provides great guidelines about with whom we share our complaints. The six people she describes are those we should avoid since they dig us deeper into our bitch session. The description Brené provides of who is worthy of our shame, is also great advice for who to surround ourselves with and how to be when others share their complaints with us.
Third, fix it. The only time to get into your issues with another or to replay them in your mind, is when you are ready to look at them so you can resolve them. It is not to just bitch, wallow in the complaints, and hang on to the wrongs that have happened to you. Instead use the replay of your challenges to find a solution to make it right. Hopefully in replaying the issue with a trusted friend, you can sort through the pain and anger to the real issue and find a real resolution. Sometimes we find that the only solution available to us is to accept the situation as fact and move on.
One exception to the fixing, is when we need to complain so we can release the emotion and move forward. My husband and I recently had an issue with someone who was renting our house. A few times I complained to my husband about the situation. I didn’t do this to bad mouth the individual or get sympathy or to feed the mental wrongs which were happening. I did it to release the emotional pain I was having so I could move forward. Before I shared with my husband, I prefaced what I said with, “If I don’t share this, it is not going to leave my mind. Please let me release my negative thinking so I can move forward without it.” And when I was finished, I was finished. I didn’t feed the story anymore.
What have you been complaining about lately? Are you sharing to resolve the issue or to wallow in the injustice? How can you share the issue with a trusted friend so you can explore solutions?