Tuesday, November 8, 2011


An old acquaintance of mine posted on Facebook the other day about an interesting challenge she, along with her yoga class buddies, are taking part in.  The goal is to stop complaining for 21 days. Of course, I immediately responded with how much I love this idea, but I also acknowledged that it seemed fairly unlikely that I could pull it off. I almost went on to complain about how hard it would be to not complain, but I deleted that part before I hit enter.

She definitely planted a seed in my mind though. I’ve been thinking a lot about complaining, and how much I dislike listening to and being around people who do it excessively. They’re depressing and negative and just suck the joy right out of a room. Then, I started thinking about how much I complain.

Since self analysis isn’t really all that fun, and it looked like it could be rather unflattering in this case, I decided to do what I always do.  Start googling.  I read that most people complain 15 to 30 times a day. When I think about it, I could probably complete that quota before noon, especially if I’m gabbing with my friends. If I get on a roll about things that annoy me, I can probably shoot off 15 complaints in an hour, easy. 

I like to think that I focus a lot of my complaining into sarcastic humor, which is better than just plain old negative complaining, since it often results in laughter, but is it really any better? It’s still negative and unpleasant, and it puts my focus on what’s wrong, not what’s right.

I know complaining effects me and my loved ones in unpleasant ways, which is why I love the idea of stopping so much. It rarely makes anyone feel better, well except maybe for a few minutes while you initially vent, but in the long run, the more I complain, the more I end up focusing on the down sides of my life, and that really just makes me less happy.

As I was sitting here debating ways to cut back on my own complaining, one of my dogs came over wagging and wanting to go out. In getting up to open the door, I spilled the entire contents of my fresh, hot, milky, sugary coffee all over the bed, soaking through every layer of blankets, and losing my delicious cup of morning yum. If that’s not easy fodder for complaining, I don’t know what is. It is taking all of my morning reserves to just let it go, and throw the blankets in a pile to be washed. Ranting isn’t going to get the laundry done, right?

That’s another thing about complaining. A lot of the time, we’re moaning about things we have no power to change. What’s the point in that? Misery? When it comes to things we do have the power to change, we’d probably be more successful in changing them if we actually did something besides sitting around whining. I could be complaining about my coffee and the blankets, or I could be getting a new cup and starting the washer.It depends on what I want more- to prolong my misery or get caffeinated. I'm going with choice #2.


Although I’m pretty darn good at complaining myself, I know I’m not the only one. As a culture, we’re fairly addicted to it. We like to compete about who has the busier schedule or the worse day. Once one person starts, everyone around starts groaning about their own woes. When you think about it, all that clinging to misery and pride in the greatest hardships probably qualifies as a mental health disorder. Of course, I’m not a mental health professional or in any way trained to make a diagnosis, but it seems pretty crazy to hang on to unhappiness. Maybe it’s just easier than dealing with taking responsibility.

 There’s even a website devoted to trying to make a complaint free world. They offer widgets to help you track your progress and bracelets you can wear as a reminder, switching wrists every time you complain, with the goal of going 21 days without switching. Again, that sounds mammoth to me, especially when you realize that every time you mess up, you start your 21 days over. Seriously!?

Like most things, the theory of not complaining is much easier than the reality of it. The woman who started me thinking about this with her challenge said that she feels it’s mostly about awareness. I agree that’s a great start. Just being aware of our thoughts, words, and intentions makes a huge difference because all of those things add up to subconsciously program who we are.

As a mom of ever growing kids, this really matters. They’ve always paid attention and reflected what was going on around them, but the older they get, the more they really watch and analyze the things the adults around them say and do. My attitude, positive or negative really sets the tone for the whole family. I know the more I complain or the grumpier I am, the worse off everyone around me is. It’s true that if mama isn’t happy, nobody is going to be.

As usual, for parents, it’s about so much more than just us. The fate of our households rest on our attitudes (no pressure or anything.) I'd love to hear how other people deal with complaining in their families- from both the adults and the kids.

I don’t think I’m quite ready to do a 21 day complaint free challenge- the thought actually gives me heart palpitations and immediately furrowed my brow. If my forehead crease gets any deeper, I’ll have even more to whine about, so I’m trying to avoid the stress of the “big challenge.” I am however up for being aware, and trying to avoid complaining thoughts and words as much as I can. I’m considering trying to tally all of my complaints for a day, just to see where I’m at at. 

I’m sharing the idea with my kids, but I think that even if they don’t consciously attempt it, there will still be a ripple effect from any positive strides I’m able to pull off. That's my positive thinking side in action. On the other hand, I'm still skeptical that I could be totally complaint free, ever.... (my less positive side is still alive too) 

Not everybody is cut out to be a spiritual master, but I'm hoping I can at least be less crabby as we head into the holidays. Imagine if we all cut our whining by 10%. I think we'd be more than 10% happier, though there's really no way to measure.

For now, I'm off to make more coffee and start my massive pile of laundry (and I'm conciously not complaing about it.)