Why Complaining is Toxic for You

Dr. Liza Varvogli
5 min readJun 21, 2018


Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity and Unhappiness

Complaining is this nagging form of communication with yourself or others. When you complain you want to make sure that everyone who can lend a listening ear hears your dissatisfaction or annoyance about something or someone and the accompanying feelings of discomfort, anger, pain, resentment, etc. Or, if you are thinking and talking to yourself, you tend to see and interpret everything as negative. Complaining may seem a good way to get off your chest whatever bothers you. This may work for a while but, in the long run, it becomes a boomerang and turns back to you.

Not a good way to connect with yourself or others! When your default mode is complaining about your life, misfortunes, problems, and difficulties that’s what you tend to get.

Complaining is One-sided

Seeing the negative, focusing on the problem, pinpointing what didn’t go well, finding fault with everything and getting stuck feeling upset about all the things you can’t control is a sure-fire way to create a gloomy world for yourself. Complaining is not just a manifestation of pessimist, it’s a manifesto of unwillingness to register the positives that coexist with the negatives.

Complaining is Compromising

When you complain too much you lose sight of what’s right in front of you- the people who love and support you, good friends, positive experiences, small successes, opportunities, positive emotions. In other words, habitual complaining doesn’t allow you to recognize and savor small moments of happiness and cultivate your inner joy.

Complaining is Contagious

When your habitual type of communication is moaning and groaning about your hardships and unlucky stars, your friends may listen sympathetically and try to give you some advice or help you get unstuck, but soon they will fall in the same mode of communication. There are numerous scientific studies showing that we tend to copy those around us when talking and interacting with them, including their tone of voice, emotion, and body posture. Remember that negativity is contagious and the more you spread it the more people will catch it. So, when you need something uplifting from your friends, they won’t be able to give it to you, as they will have developed to be as negative as you were in the first place.

Complaining is an Immature Form of Communication

Toddlers and preschoolers who haven’t reached emotional maturity and language mastery tend to whine to get what they need. Even then, their behavior is considered inappropriate and the adults in their life use different methods to stop the whining. As people get older, but not necessarily more mature, they revert to this learned behavior only as adults they don’t whine, they complain verbally. Other adults find it hard to deal with complainers, so they may push them away or simply don’t pay attention.

Complaining Makes you a Magnet of Negativity

If you are a complainer, you may be unaware of it, as it’s such a natural behavior for you, that you don’t think there’s another way. Check the content of your thoughts, what you think, what words you use to describe various situations in your life and what are the accompanying feelings. When you see the world through the lenses of negativity and interpret your life habitually considering what’s wrong or not ideal, then you don’t allow your brain to process other pieces of information that show the contrary. In other words, you find what you are looking for.

Complaining Rewires your Brain for Negativity, Pessimism, and Unhappiness

Human brain loves familiarity and efficiency- so what you feed your brain it will settle for it and seek more of it. In other words, the more you complain, the more you make this the default mode of your brain’s operation. Neurons that handle the negative pieces of information will fire together and with practice, they will make a new neuronal pathway of negativity. Once this pattern is established, every time you encounter a new situation, or you need to interpret your experience, the established circuit of neurons will process it in the way it knows how to do it: through complaining and pessimism. Negative thinking is related to negative feelings and emotions and once you cultivate them, they will become part of who you are, and this will be your life.

How to Complain Constructively

· If you need to vent, go ahead and complain, but do it for a limited amount of time. Then thank your friend for listening and change the subject.

· When you complain about something problematic, think about possible the solutions and ways to address the situation.

· Get positive attention from your friends- ask them out, inquire after their lives, join their interests.

· Find your own interests, hobbies, passion and invest in this direction.

· Learn to see the positive side in any given situation.

· Complaining can be a legitimate response to a problem situation when it’s followed with a reasonable plan of action.

· Train yourself to think of at least one positive or realistic thought for every negative one.

· Be grateful for all there is in your life.



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Dr. Liza Varvogli

Ph.D. in Psychology| Harvard-trained| Psychotherapist| Stress Management Professor|Parenting & Relationships Expert|Meditator|Positive thinker|Solution-oriented