#21 Complaining Might be Killing You

Ok, maybe ‘killing’ you is a bit dramatic but it turns out that complaining can make you sick - literally. And… you don’t have to be the one complaining! Leslie and Leslyn discuss the neurological effects of complaining and share ideas on how to reverse the damage.


This episode is based on an article from the website The Learning Mind entitled “How Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity and Literally Kills You”. We found it absolutely fascinating and immediately thought of some people who suffer from Chronic illness and realized that they tend to be vocal pessimists.

Leslyn and Leslyn dug into the research and explain the key points.

1. “Synapses that fire together wire together.”

Thoughts are electrical signals that move through the brain. As you think, your brain develops a ‘neural pathway’ to provide efficiency… it is creating a PATH for the thought to travel in the easiest, fastest way so that your thoughts come quickly and automatically.  The more you think a particular thought - the faster it can be recalled.

 2. The Shortest Path Wins the Race

Therefore, if you continually have negative thoughts, those synapses associated with those negative thoughts will grow even more. This makes it easier to have those negative thoughts. Gradually you will become a more negative person over time and find it harder to find the positive in life.

Essentially, repetition of thought - any thought - will create short and quick pathways that make it really easy for that thought to surface. The shorter the path… the more quickly that thought becomes dominant.

3. Negativity breeds Negativity

It turns out that negative people in our surroundings can also affect us. Think about a crowd turning from a peaceful protest to an aggressive mob in seconds. Or a group of ladies bitching about an absent friend. It is all too easy to get caught up in the moment.

We tend to naturally empathize… or at least our brain takes on the challenge. When we see someone experiencing an emotion, we tend to relate to what that person is going through. It’s the thing that makes us cry in the movie theater or when someone wins an important challenge.  Likewise, this happens with negative emotions as well. Each moment you spend in an environment of negativity, your brain is wiring for that persistent attempt at empathy.

4. Negativity produces stress

Stress produces Cortisol. Cortisol is released as an agent in our ‘flight or fight’ response. If we don’t actually fight or flee… the chemical is stored in our blood and too much of it causes:

  • High blood pressure

  • Lower immune function

  • Lower bone density

  • Heart disease

  • Weight Gain

  • And more.

Complaining Antidotes:

  • Self care

    • Time out

    • Mindfulness

    • breath

  • Self - Expression

  • Effective communication

  • Alternative Expression

  • Gratitude

  • Affirmations

Our Try This At Home for this week is to notice how and when you complain. Awareness is the first step of course. Make a commitment to neutralize each complaint with a corresponding expression of gratitude, a letting go, or an affirmation of intent.