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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reflections on a week without complaints

Last Monday, I joined some of my fellow yogis in giving up complaining for one week. While I would not necessarily say that I was 100% successful in getting my complaint level down to zero, I was definitely more mindful and proactive about avoiding negative thoughts. If nothing else, it's been a very informative are a few things I have learned/realized since last Monday:

1) Awareness goes a long way
Even if I did inadvertently let some complain-y thoughts enter my brain, having my "complaint radar" on meant that I usually caught myself in the act. If I I let my guard down for a couple of hours, it was fairly easy to think back on what had passed through my mind during that time. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised - I am a pretty positive person, as it turns out.

I was also really intrigued by my thought patterns over the course of a day. Most of my inner whining actually happens in the morning when I don't want to get out of bed, or in the evening - which means that I complain the most when I am at home. As much as I can tell myself that it's because I'm in a safe environment and I'm just "letting it all out," this pattern made me really reflect on how much more I could be cherishing my time at home and with my family, rather than wasting it on bitching about random things.

2) There is a difference between complaining, and recognizing that something sucks
Just because you are aware that something makes you unhappy doesn't mean you are complaining -just don't dwell on it. Acknowledge that the situation upsets you, give yourself some time to be angry or sad, and then cut yourself off.

3) Most of the time the person I'm complaining to can't do a damn thing about what's bothering me
This was actually my yoga teacher's insight, not mine, but I'm co-opting it because a) it's true and b) it fits well with my next point. Sure, sometimes you need to vent to your spouse - but don't vent to your spouse, your friend, your parents, all of your co-workers, your dentist, etc. You're just wasting time that could be spent solving the problem, and unless your vent includes a really entertaining story there are probably way more awesome conversations you could be having. Which brings me to my next point...

4) Complaining is a huge black hole of productivity
I know I mentioned this before, but complaining seriously holds you back in your ability to fix whatever is bothering you. As I said last Tuesday, I had a really frustrating morning at work and my first instinct was to find someone to vent to. But, then I remembered what I had promised myself the night before.

The crazy thing was, as soon as I decided I was not going to complain, the problem-sovling wheels automatically started turning in my head. In the same time it would have taken me to have a good venting session, I had already made significant strides towards improving the situation I was dealing with, and I felt about 10x better.

I usually justify my complaining by saying "I just need to vent!" but if I'm being honest with myself, in a lot of cases bitching about something just makes me feel worse. What makes me feel happier is actually getting something done.

5) Most of what we complain about is actually under our control to fix
I thought it was really telling that the second I cut myself off from internal negativity, I knew what to do - it meant that no one is in control of my experience but me. The thoughts we cultivate really do affect not just our internal lives, but also how we act in the world. Logically I know this - I talk allllllllll the time about how our happiness is shaped not by what happens to us, but by how we choose to react. I think this week just made it real for me in a new way.

In conclusion, I leave you with this helpful chart:

(from College Plus)


1 comment:

  1. I very much concur with this sentiment and kind of want to post the thought process for students I have.


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