How to stop complaining

How to stop complaining

How to break the negative cycle…

Everyone complains from time to time, but did you know that it could be damaging your health?


Daniella Rafaely, a psychology lecturer at Monash South Africa offers a few approaches to transforming habits:

  • As with any bad habit, the first step towards making a change is increasing awareness of the behaviour.
    Enlist a good friend to help you notice when you start complaining or speaking negatively about your life.
  • Once you have a sense of the type of complaining you do, and the frequency, the next step is to decrease the unwanted behaviour, and eventually replace it with a positive behaviour. When you catch yourself
    complaining, pause, take a deep breath, and try to replace it with a sentence or phrase that’s more
    positive, solution-oriented or grateful. This behaviour doesn’t repress or deny the difficulties in your life, but
    rather rewires your brain to think about these difficulties in more proactive and responsive ways.
  • Attend a few cognitive behavioural therapy sessions, which are premised on the assumption that our behaviours regulate our thoughts, and not the other way around. By reducing complaining behaviours, you
    eventually notice that the thoughts and beliefs associated with previous habits have shifted in alignment with the new, more positive, behaviours. It’s also important (where possible) to attempt to understand the
    root of your tendency towards negative biases – these include low self-esteem, fear of failure, disappointment, unmet needs, and rejection, and they’re often completely unconscious. Therapy
    can be a good place to work through deeper issues and get to the bottom of self-destructive thought patterns.

Complaining detox

  • Decide on a time limit – you’ll need more than a week, but can stretch it out for as long as you require.
  • Create a reminder that will keep you present in the challenge. Will
    Bowen, founder of A Complaint Free World used a purple bracelet to encourage people to remain complaint-free. Whenever they complained, they had to remove the bracelet, place it on the opposite wrist, and start their detox countdown from zero.
  • Give yourself time to vent during the day (10-15 minutes is sufficient) or write down your complaints. Writing it down as soon as it becomes a thought stops the complaint from growing and becoming a bigger
    problem. ‘Writing stuff helps to concretise and externalise it, and creates additional consciousness towards the behaviour,’ says Daniella.
  • Think before you speak. Become mindful of how you respond to situations. Think about what you would like to say, and if it’s negative, reframe it in a more positive light.

The Your Family team underwent a 21-day complaint-free detox, here’s what they had to say:

  • ‘Just talking about the amount of complaining we usually do made me more aware of it. And I do believe it’s easier to be kind and positive than look for problems all the time.’
  • ‘I’m more aware of other people complaining, which somehow made me realise that not complaining all the time did make me feel better “inside”. Final verdict: It works!’
  • ‘You learn to really challenge your mindset. You realise people will still complain and be  ungrateful, but you shouldn’t let other people’s complaining and attitudes affect you.’
  • ‘It made me more aware of mindfulness and to think in a more positive way. It’s frightening how much we complain daily, but it was good to think about reframing things.’


Joni van der Merwe

About Joni van der Merwe

Your Family’s Digital editor. Avid retweeter. When I’m not scrolling Instagram you’ll find me in my garden. Keen on DIY and I don’t believe there’s anything that can’t be fixed with some chalk paint.


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