The Toxic Effect of Complaining

UUUGH! Traffic was awful! I am so tired because I just can’t get a good night sleep. I had the worst service during my lunch break! And the guy in front of me at the grocery store checkout took FOREVER with all the coupons! Oh, and…to top it off, I’m having a really bad hair day!


Think about all the things we complain about in a day…

The weather, traffic, the line at the coffee shop, how slow the internet is, how long it took for your food to come at a restaurant, your spouse, your kids, your bills, how you did not sleep well….


 As Will Bowen founder of complaint-free world says, “Complaining is like bad breath- – you notice it when it comes out of someone else’s mouth, but not when it comes out of your own.”


Complaining tends to be just a way to vent rather than problem solve. It thus creates unnecessary stress and keeps you harmfully focused on negativity.  It’s like giving the negativity even more power. And if you know about the Law of Attraction, what you focus on is what you attract. So, complaining is a sure fire way to bring you more to complain about. It literally pollutes your mind and emotions with full-blown negativity.


The glass of water is literally half empty and half full.  But how we choose to perceive it is up to us.

Complaining is a way we use to try to alleviate our frustrations but usually all we do is get repeatedly aggravated every time we repeat our story to someone else. We can take a lousy situation and make a mountain out of a molehill by our complaining. It’s like making a wave turn into a tidal wave.


It’s one thing if you are complaining in order to create a change…to fix it. That can be proactive and productive.  But typically we just vent to someone else rather than take any steps to instigate a change. When we complain, we are typically left feeling helpless because we are playing the victim role, and ineffective complaining is harmful to our mental psyche.

Taking positive steps to incite change is the best way to handle complaining or to address our frustrations.


Complaining can literally kill you. When you are negative and complaining, you release elevated levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Your body is literally flooded with cortisol. This causes weight gain, higher blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease, lower immunity, and messes with our learning and memory. It even makes you more susceptible to strokes. Complaining rewires your brain for negativity.

 It is not good for you at all. Repeated complaining affects your brain’s neurons so that future complaining is more likely. In essence, complaining becomes your default.


Here’s how…

Your brain loves to be efficient. When you repeat a behavior, like complaining, your brain’s neurons branch out to each other to speed up the flow of information, because that is efficient. This makes it much easier to repeat that behavior in the future. So your neurons grow closer to each other and that connection leads to your brain building a permanent bridge between neurons. Scientists describe this as:

“Neurons that fire together, wire together.”



And did you know that complaining kills our brain’s memory? Let’s look at our brains. Stress has a damaging and lasting result on our brains. After days of stress, studies have shown that the neurons in the hippocampus are damaged and its ability to create new neurons is negatively affected. The hippocampus is  the part of our brains responsible for cognitive functions and our ability to problem solve. Over time what tends to happen with the damage of neurons is that our memory is impaired and we face a decline in our ability to adapt to new situations. This is the same part of the brain which is affected by Alzheimer’s. And what is even more interesting is that listening to others complain is like second hand smoke—equally damaging. Complaining brings suffering to the complainer but also the listener!


It is way too easy to fall into the pattern of complaining.



1.       Switch your brain from merely venting to a proactive problem solving strategy.  This takes the complaint and flips it to a positive outlet.

2.       Create a complaint jar.  Accountability. Partner

3.       Complaint free world bracelets by Will Bowen

4.       Gratitude journal.

5.       Step back and evaluate if your expectations are too high.

6.       Decide on a strategy to avoid the frustration, ie. Put great music on or a podcast while sitting in traffic. Or…if your food at lunch is taking too lunch, bring a great book or a journal to use your time wisely. This will alleviate the frustration.


Use our energy to pursue happiness rather than dwell on the negative. Cultivate healthy habits to make you more calm, less volatile, and visibly happy.


I will end with these two quotes that I love:


“Complaining about a problem without offering a solution, is called whining.”-Theodore Roosevelt


“Champions never complain…they are too busy getting better.” -John Wooden


Until next time,

Stay inspired.