Why a “Complaint Cleanse” May Be Exactly What You Need for a Happier Week

Photo: Getty Images / Caiaimage/ Paul Bradbury
Just like the springtime cold currently ravaging your office, complaining is wildly contagious. Your friend starts dishing about, say, the fact that their S.O. never revealed they're in an open relationship, and before you know it, everything from the weather to your slightly-wrinkled blouse becomes worthy of verbalization. Getting swept up by life's minor and major frustrations doesn't have to become your unofficial life motto though. Poet Cleo Wade says committing to a "complaint cleanse" is one way to "make the world more magical and more peaceful."

In an Instagram post from Sunday, the wordsmith writes: "Complaining is something that seems to come so easy and so naturally to us, but the problem is: complaints have no magic. They don't make anyone's day better, and they don't help any situation." Rather than leaning into a litany of grievances, she suggests swiping left on them while they're still inside your mind. Then just do that for seven days straight. Easy, right?

Wade's thesis has a lot of psychological clout. Guy Winch, PhD, explained in Psychology Today that repeating your dislike of your boss/mother-in-law/person who cuts you in the Trader Joe's line creates a feedback loop in which we're experiencing the same unfavorable emotions over and over again.

"The problem is that today we associate the act of complaining with venting far more than we do with problem solving," Dr. Winch wrote. "As a result, we complain simply to get things off our chest, not to resolve problems or to create change, rendering the vast majority of our complaints completely ineffective." He said that this is particularly true of the myriad things we can't change—like the subway breaking down (ugh, again!) and the way the lighting in the work bathroom makes us look like Tim Burton's Corpse Bride.

"When we have so many dissatisfactions and frustrations, yet believe we're powerless to do much about them or to get the results we want, we are left feeling helpless, hopeless, victimized, and bad about ourselves," the psychologist wrote. There's nothing "magical" at all about feeling like your life is out of control. So rather than inhaling deeply and offering up a Hamlet-length monologue about the everyday trials and tribulation, change what you can and move on. It's the Wade-approved way to talk (or not talk) your way toward peace.

If negative thoughts have turned your mind into a minefield, here's how to exercise your veto power. Plus, what to do if a song gets stuck in your head

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