Complaining + mindfulness = magic

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On the whole, complaining is something that most of us don't like. And yet, it's also something that most of us still do. We even complain about complaining. It's sort of fascinating when you think about it. 

Many of my favorite teachers recommend taking a break from complaining, and it's a compelling assignment. You will be a lot quieter. You will have a lot less to say. You will realize how much of your day is punctuated by complaints. (Or at least this was my experience. Results may vary!)

When I've tried complaining less (or not at all), it's also become  apparent how much complaining is a way that we connect with other people. We get together and bond by complaining about something we both dislike. Whole social circles are formed in this way. 

But there's a reason so many people recommend taking a break from complaining (or giving it up entirely) and it's this: complaining trains your brain to notice and obsess about what's not working. Because of confirmation bias, the more we think there's something to complain about, the more we'll find to complain about. It's like doing a google search. The results match the search terms. And when we're always running a search for what's not working, 1. we'll find it and 2. there's less mental room and attention for us to notice and delight in what is working.

Try this right now. Ask yourself, what's not going well? Your brain will have an answer for you. Then ask yourself, what is going well? Your brain will have an answer for that, too. Whichever question you ask more often will have a stronger, faster answer. The one that you don't ask as often might take longer to answer, but if you keep asking it, your brain will come up with something. 

In any moment, we can find something that's going well and something that's not going well. And even though this is the human condition, most of us think things should always go well, so when something doesn't go well, we see it as a problem, but when things do go well, we don't even notice them. But when we live this way, all we're ever aware of is our complaints, and we don't ever feel gratitude and delight about all that stuff that is working. It doesn't even scratch the surface of our awareness.

Now, I'm not going to tell you to feel more grateful, because in my experience, nothing makes people feel less grateful than being told they should feel more grateful (instead it usually just makes them feel guilty). But what I want you to consider is this: it feels good to notice what is working. You don't have to tell yourself to be grateful about it. You can just notice it and enjoy the noticing. 

When we complain about things, it's because we think we'd be happier if they were different. But there's a shortcut. If you want to feel good, just spend a few minutes thinking about what is already working. Not because you should be grateful. Just because ... it feels good. It's deceptively simple.

Take a minute and try it right now. Maybe what is going well is that you're taking a sip of coffee and it's delicious. Maybe it's that your socks are dry. Maybe it's that your car had enough gas in it to drive you to the office this morning, even though you were worried that maybe it wouldn't. Just pick something that you think "should be this way," and notice that you like the way it is. That's it. And it's always available to you. 

But don't worry, I am not going to tell you to just notice what's working and never complain again. Instead, I want you to notice your complaints and track them. Write them down. Examine them. Ask yourself if they're true. Ask yourself why they're a problem. See if they're all different or if they're all actually the same complaint wearing different outfits. 

When you write your complaints down and really look at them, what you find might surprise you. Why? Because complaints are gold mines of information. Our complaints show us our brain's default thoughts and patterns. When we complain without thinking, we're just reinforcing these old patterns, but when we stop to write our complaints down and really look at them, then we have a chance to see what our old patterns are and whether we'd like to keep them. We have a chance to see if our complaints are even true and relevant or if they're just habitual. We have a chance to see if we'd like to actually make a change or if we're just trying to outsource our difficult feelings by blaming them on circumstances or other people. 

It might not be fun to examine your complaints. It might be painful. It might bring up old thoughts and stories. But, you're already doing that to yourself every time you complain, even if you're not aware of it, so it's better to see what's actually going on and make a choice about whether or not it's something you want to keep doing. 

And that's the beautiful thing about thought patterns. You can change them. You can take a look at how you feel when you complain and how you act when you feel that way, and then you can decide if that's how you want to keep showing up. You can say, ok, brain, I'm not going to focus on what's not working anymore. I'm going to focus on what is working. I'm going to try spending a few minutes every day enjoying things that are going the way I want them to. Not because it's better than complaining, but because it's true that so much is going well and it feels good to notice and enjoy that. 

Are you ready to shift out of complaining and into enjoying? I can help you with that. Schedule a consult and let's talk about it.