No Complaints in Whinge-free Zone

Photo credit: jen_rabHere’s some cheap insurance for longevityboomers against becoming “cranky old *****” as opposed to lovely old smilies.  But you can’t just buy it.  You have to work for it.  No excuses now because the word’s out that we have “plastic” brains.  In other words we have the ability to change.

So when the script in someone’s head is running constantly on a diet of complaint and whinging is his/her way of communication, we have a situation that is more than just annoying.  He/she may be causing universal brain drain, or worse.

It’s a bit like a nasty social virus, because it’s catchy. According to career coach Trevor Blake, “negative words stimulate the areas of the brain associated with perceptions and cognitive functioning….It’s clear that constant exposure to complaints will reinforce negative thinking and your behaviour is likely to change to fit those negative perceptions”.

Our human brains are very sensitive to stimuli, especially in the form of repeated patterns.  It’s how we learn.  According to Stanford School of Medicine’s Dr Robert Sapolsky, the hippocampus is particularly sensitive to negativity in the environment. Just thirty minutes exposure  to negativity is a stressor that can increase cortisol levels which negatively impact on brain function, eventually causing sections to shrink.

Blake offers some tips for those who must be exposed to ongoing complaining:

  • self-awareness: revise negative self-talk with more positive slants on a situation
  • distance yourself physically and if this is not possible, visualize a more pleasant situation
  • don’t try to “fix” the complainers, but rather focus internally on a more positive perspective.
  • ask the complainer to outline their solution to the problem.  This tactic can sometimes end a rant because, as Blake points out, “complainers don’t really want a solution, nor are they looking for sympathy.  They just want to vent”.

While Blake’s analysis focuses mainly on the workplace, the choice between positive or negative influences is one we all make minute by minute, day by day.  Research indicates that watching a stressful TV show can also stress your brain while spending more time in nature can destress it.

Think about how these ideas might apply to people trapped in war zones, detention centres, etc  and take a look at whether your complaints warrant seeing the light of day.  Why not create, as one enlightened art teacher suggested, a “whinge-free zone”  where the creative process of living has space to thrive.

Trevor Blake Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life.

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