What do you do when things go wrong and everything around you seems to crumble? Do you keep your eyes forward and try to find a solution? Or do you fall into endless complaining?

Everyone has times in their life when nothing goes as planned, when problems overwhelm them, and everything looks like a failure. Life is made up of ups and downs. In moments like these, some choose to look confidently towards the future, trying to overcome the crisis in their lives to the best of their ability, while others choose to complain and pity themselves. They complain about what they have, about what they do not have, about their hard or monotonous life, and about their problems, their peers or their family. In a nutshell, they complain about everything.

Well, complaining and self-pity are of no use to us because they are not productive solutions. On the contrary, they do more harm than good.

Complaining: What does it add to your life?

Self-pity does not solve your problems, nor does it make you feel better. It only contributes to raising your stress levels. It keeps you inactive, makes you waste time you could use for useful and pleasant things, increases the chances of developing addictions, and is also harmful to those around you. Sometimes it’s useful because it works like an emotional release which gives you the opportunity to acknowledge and correct the things you are unhappy about. However, if self-pity becomes chronic, then it is no longer constructive. Constant complaining and self-pity are harmful to our health, because the brain releases stress hormones which affect the area responsible for solving problems and performing other cognitive functions.

Furthermore, the mere company of people who complain all the time is harmful. In his book Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life, author Trevor Blake talks about what scientists have found when it comes to the connection between brain activity and certain stimuli. Blake says that when you are exposed to attitudes of self-pity for a long time, it is highly possible that you will end up adopting them.

No complaints: is this possible?

Thierry Blancpain and Pieter Pelgrims designed a program, called Complaint Restraint, which challenges participants to a month of self-pity abstinence, to encourage positive attitudes. Around 1 000 people responded to this challenge. Talking about self-pity, Blake says that nothing unites us more than the negatives—those things we are not satisfied with—which makes it even harder to give up complaining. The other extreme is also not good: not expressing our emotions. This shortens our lifespan by approximately 2 years, according to a study. There is, however, a middle way which “allows” complaining, but only as a state of transition.


Are you willing to complain less? Here are a few suggestions:

Five things to do to limit complaining

1. Identify the reason why you are complaining. Only by doing this will you find a solution and be able to mend the situation, as far as possible.

2. Be aware of the time you spend wallowing in self-pity. You may not realize how much time you spend complaining and how addicted you are to it. By acknowledging this you will be able to take the necessary steps to avoid self-pity.

3. Move away from “chronic complainers”. These people are harmful to your health. If you can help with anything, even if it is just a positive attitude, do it. If not, distance is the best option.

4. Turn complaints into solutions. This is ‘constructive whining’. Joanna Wolfe, professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, says: “Do not admire the problem you have. Do something about it!”

5. Use the word ‘but’. Jon Gordon, author of the book The No Complaining Rule, gives us a piece of advice: when you start complaining, add a “but” and say something positive. “I do not like that it takes me so long to travel to work, but at least I have a place to work.”

After the Complaint Restraint program was concluded, participants showed more positive attitudes more frequently than before. Positive attitudes impacted both their emotional and physical health, and also improved their productivity in the workplace as well as their ability to solve daily problems.