11 Surprising Ways Complaining Can Affect Your Health
There's certainly nothing wrong letting off some steam during a good ol' venting session. But that doesn't mean you should make it a habit. If you vent this way every day, the chronic complaining can start to affect your health, whether it's by increasing your stress levels, adding to your anxiety, or pushing your loved ones away.
Because chronic complains can have such a big impact on your health, and your life, it's important to focus your attention on healthy solutions — as well as a little positivity. "Being positive allows you to handle stressful situations better, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body," NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, tells Bustle. "Positive thinking doesn't mean that you ignore life's stressors. You just approach hardship in a more productive way."
You might, for example, start by looking at things a bit differently. "Reframing your negative thinking is a great tool," Hershenson says. "Ask yourself 'what are the other possibilities this is happening? For example, if an acquaintance ignores you on the street instead of automatically thinking 'I did something wrong,' tell yourself 'maybe they are having a bad day, are in a rush, or didn't see me.'" By looking at things through rosier glasses, you'll save yourself from all the ways complaining can impact your life.
1. It Can Make You Feel More Stressed
When you're complaining, you're essentially reliving whatever it was that upset you. So it makes sense why this habit might stress you right on out. As licensed professional counselor Adina Silvestri, EdD, LPC says, this has a lot to do with the "hyper-aroused" or overly alert state many people enter during a venting session. While it's OK to be "keyed up" like this on occasion, doing so regularly can take a toll on your health.
2. It Can Wear You Down Physically
Holding yourself in such a perpetually hyper-aroused state can lead to issues with headaches, extra stress, insomnia — and it can even start to wear you down physically. "If these acute responses occur over a long period of time, your body can start to fall apart," Silvestri says. And that's not good.
3. It Can Increase Feelings Of Negativity
Constant complaining can sort of train your body to enter into a vicious cycle of stress and negativity which, again, isn't great for your health. "When our negative thoughts are hitting us hard, it reinforces automatic (physical) responses that trigger more negative thoughts," Silvestri says. "It is quite the cycle of abuse we put ourselves through."
4. It May Make Your Anxiety And Depression Worse
If you spend a ton of time focusing on your problems, it can eventually take a toll on your mental health — and may even make your current issues worse. "Having a more negative outlook on life increases feelings of sadness, depression, and anxiety," Hershenson says. And that's definitely not something you want to do.
5. It Might Ruin Your Relationships
Your loved ones certainly want to offer support if you're going through a tough time. But it's important to stop complaining before you've abused their generosity and care. As Hershenson tells me, some friends may feel burnt out and pushed away by chronic complaining. So be careful.
6. It Doesn't Actually Achieve Anything
If you're upset or stressed out, complaining may feel good for a few moments. But, because it doesn't actually help to correct anything, it can make you feel even more frustrated. This is, as you probably guessed, especially true for complaints revolving around relationships. "Embedded in every complaint is an unspoken request," says couple and family therapist Hayden Lindsey, MS. If you're just venting, instead of spelling out why you're upset, it can lead to all sorts of resentment.
7. It's An Unhealthy Coping Mechanism
Everyone needs to complain, and doing so occasionally is OK. But if it becomes your go-to coping mechanism, you aren't doing your mental health any favors. "People who constantly complain usually use negativity as an unhealthy coping skill," Hershenson says. "Negativity is used as a false means of controlling a situation. If something goes wrong the individual feels they have 'prepared themselves for disappointment,' when in reality they will disappointed anyway."
8. Complaining Keeps You Stuck
Keep in mind that, while complaining may feel like it's improving your situation, it's actually doing quite the opposite. "It gets us stuck in a space where we are only able to see the downside of things, problems instead of solutions ... and thinking that is not pleasant to be around, or to live with," psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez says. "People who live with this thinking and behavior style consistently are more depressed and anxious, and are less likely to take positive steps to change their situation."
9. It Can Kind Of Make Your Situation Worse
When you're upset, it's totally normal to turn to loved ones so you can complain, and then maybe get a little comfort. And yet it doesn't always work out that way. "The reactions of other people to your complaining may compound the stress instead of intended relief," psychotherapist Tara Chivukula, LCSW, tells Bustle. This type of situation can be super hurtful, and can even make you feel worse.
10. It Affects How You Hold Yourself
Think about how you hold yourself when you complain, and I bet you'll find that your go-to venting stance isn't so healthy. "If you have a negative outlook your gaze might drop, your posture will sink, not to mention stress caused by complaining can cause muscle fatigue, tension, and headaches," says Erica Hornthal, a licensed professional clinical counselor, in an interview with Bustle. Totally not worth it.
11. It Can Increase Self-Loathing
When you're feeling upset, the last thing you want is to get down on yourself. And yet that's exactly what complaining can do. "Venting is healthy, but complaining without any plan to change things around in your life is detrimental," Chivukula says. If you do this often enough, you might even get caught in a cycle of self-loathing, instead of one where you work to feel better.
That's why, the next time you feel the need to vent, you should. But know when to stop. You should then draw on some support, and a desire to make things better, and outline a few steps that'll fix whatever's got you down and bring you closer to feeling better.
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