Welcome to Day 2 of our Jump Start January 2018 mini-challenge. Today’s activity is one of the many ways to retrain your brain to make you feel more positive and more empowered: it’s time to Complain (grumble) less and fix more.
There are two main types of complaining. One is assertive complaining that can help ourselves and others (stopping people or companies ripping us off, calling out bad service or bullying, getting politically active when we see dishonesty or injustice, and so on), and the other is, er, just grumbling away to ourselves.
It’s good to talk and get things off your chest, but if it’s just moaning for the sake of it then this can become a bad habit. Grumbling in this way can often go around and around in a circular fashion, sometimes turning into a disempowering downward spiral, unlike other options that can be more helpful if you want to live a generally happier life. Today is only about moaning and grumbling.
More about what we’re trying to do today
Today’s activity is to avoid having a moan for one whole day. Just try to notice when you are thinking or speaking in a non-productive way, and behave slightly differently if you can.
There’s no need to suppress any negative feelings or deny them. The idea here is to try to deal with them in a different way, to find out whether it’s helpful to you or not.
Once you’ve spotted those thoughts, try to shift your focus to problem solving instead of simple complaining. Moaning is not the same as effective complaining, and listening to your inner voice when you feel a bit grumpy can actually be very helpful. You might like to keep a note of what’s bugging you and making you want to complain.
You might find it helpful to monitor:
- The specific thoughts that are coming into your mind when you feel like moaning.
- Any feelings, sensations or emotions that you have before, during or after the thoughts.
- Where you are, and who you’re with, or whether there are any other triggers present.
Whenever you feel the urge to grumble, gently steer yourself back into problem solving mode. Is it minor or serious? If serious, what positive action can you take to improve your situation? Don’t be surprised if you have to do this a few times, as it’s something that can take a bit of practice before it sticks.
At the end of the day today, while you’re winding down during the evening, go back over your waking hours and reflect on two things. Firstly, think about whatever was making you feel like having a moan, and, secondly, consider what you could do to solve your more important problems that might have a more positive effect and improve your quality of life.
How can this improve my mood or wellbeing?
Some of what we complain about is ‘small stuff’, or minor niggles that don’t hold all that much importance to us in the long run. Other things that we complain about have great personal meaning to us, and reflect our strongest values or greatest hopes in life. The trick is to listen to ourselves more carefully and then evaluate whether what’s bothering us is ‘big stuff’ or ‘small stuff’. We can then tackle what’s important and drop what isn’t.
It’s one way to become more positive without suppressing our natural reactions to things. The problem solving part also makes us feel like we’re more in charge of our own lives.
What’s happening here?
Yesterday we went to a local park for a walk around the lake and to look at the wildlife as part of the Get out into nature exercise. We ended up feeding some grain to the ducks, swans and moorhens too, and it was good to get outside for some much needed daylight and fresh air. Not too hungover either, which is always a bonus on New Year’s Day. Then it was home for some potato gnocchi with vegetable sauce and parmesan – perfect comfort food.
For today, I’ll be keeping a notes page on my phone for any grumpy thoughts I might have during the day. For example, I freely admit that the weather in January often makes me grumble, even though there’s very little I can do about it. I bet some thoughts like that will be popping up, especially if it’s cold or rainy here today.
Those are clearly minor moans, and my energy could be put to better use in this particular case by problem solving and complaining less: put on a warmer jumper, dig out those thermal socks, apply waterproofing polish to my shoes, and so on. I’ll never love January weather, but I do know I’ll be a lot happier with toasty toes.
This ‘not grumbling for a day’ is a bit of an unusual exercise, but it can have some very interesting results! Let us know how you get on.