When life brings you down and you’re struggling to stay motivated, it can be comforting to let it all out and talk to someone that you trust. Communicating your emotions and negative thoughts to another person or “venting” can make you feel better.
In nursing school, I was taught to communicate therapeutically with my patients with the aim of allowing them to vent about their health. Negative emotions that are turned inwards can lead to depression.
However, when venting becomes complaining and complaining becomes a habit, the effects are anything but therapeutic.
In this article, Steven Parton writes that too much complaining can alter your brain and bring negative repercussions to your mental health. According to Parton,
Throughout your brain there is a collection of synapses separated by empty space called the synaptic cleft. Whenever you have a thought, one synapse shoots a chemical across the cleft to another synapse, thus building a bridge over which an electric signal can cross, carrying along its charge the relevant information you’re thinking about.
Parton further explains how your thoughts reshape your brain and ultimately affect how you perceive reality:
Every time this electrical charge is triggered, the synapses grow closer together in order to decrease the distance the electrical charge has to cross … The brain is rewiring its own circuitry, physically changing itself, to make it easier and more likely that the proper synapses will share the chemical link and thus spark together—in essence, making it easier for the thought to trigger.
We create synapses by repeating our thoughts. When we think, the thought that is favoured is likely the one that will bond the fastest with the other synapses and create a bridge. Therefore, the more negative thoughts you have now, the likelier it is that you will have negative thoughts in the future. By contrast, positive thinking now will lead to more positive thoughts in the future.
Holding negative emotions and chronic complaining cause stress. When you’re stressed, you secrete the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that is released in response to fear or stress and is part of the fight-or-flight mechanism.
It has been scientifically proven that repeated high cortisol levels in your bloodstream can weaken your immune system, raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. It can also interfere with learning and memory and cause mental illness.
Considering the above, a good defense against stress and pessimism is to view your surroundings through an optimistic lense. According to Jonathan Fields:
A good life isn’t a place at which you arrive, it’s a lense through which you see and create your world.
Here are some suggestions if you are surrounded by negativity:
1. Take a deep breath, relax or take some timeout.
2. Discuss issues but never blame or attack a person directly.
3. Discuss concerns in a respectful manner and say how you feel.
4. Express your concerns in writing or in a journal.
5. Practice a sport or regular fitness.
6. Practice gratitude more often.
7. Keep things in perspective and do not let little things get to you.
8. As much as possible, avoid people who think negatively and surround yourself with positive people.