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Why complaining can actually make you feel worse

Matthew Wiebe/Unsplash
Matthew Wiebe/Unsplash

Whether it’s the traffic on your morning commute, the OMG annoying girl in front of you at Starbucks who keeps changing her order, or the fact that you can never get a front row bike in your favorite spin class, sometimes blowing off some steam in a major vent session feels really good. Therapeutic even.

But Negative Nancies and Debbie Downers beware: all that complaining can take a serious toll on your health, according to author Steven Parton.

Parton says that complaining can actually alter your brain and have serious repercussions on your mental health, Inc. reports. He explains that when you have certain thoughts, your brain goes through a rewiring process, making it easier to have that same thought again. So every time you think, “Ugh, a fully booked front row at exactly 12:01 again,” your brain is more likely to trigger that thought and feeling again in the future.

“Want to be happy? Surround yourself with happy people.”

And while the temptation to have bitch-and-moan-fests with your girlfriends is strong, especially after a long workday or when enduring a particularly crowded post-workout locker room situation, Parton says surrounding yourself with good company is key.

“When we see someone experiencing an emotion (be it anger, sadness, happiness, etc.), our brain ‘tries out’ that same emotion to imagine what the other person is going through,” he writes. “It is our shared bliss at music festivals, or our solidarity in sadness during tragedies. But it is also your night at the bar with your friends who love love love to constantly bitch.”

Ultimately, all the negativity builds and leads to a great deal of stress which, as we all know, is Enemy #1. So while we’re all about embracing our feelings and letting out our emotions (therapy FTW), keeping girls’ night light does a body—and brain—good.

“Want to be happy? Surround yourself with happy people,” Parton writes. #preach

Get started on a negativity-zapping path with these positivity practices for skeptics or, for an instant pick-me-up, five happiness-boosting aromatherapy blends