Research Shows that Complaining Turns Brains to Mush

You know that feeling of fight or flight that comes over you when you get caught in the middle of someone’s gripe session? You want out, but you aren’t sure how to escape. You try to turn the conversation to something more positive, to no avail. You finally get away, but the negativity lingers, clouding your thoughts, preventing you from concentrating on work and making decisions.

There’s a reason for that. An Inc. article by Minda Zetlin reports:

Listening to too much complaining is bad for your brain in multiple ways, according to Trevor Blake, a serial entrepreneur and author of Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life. . . . Research shows that exposure to 30 minutes or more of negativity—including viewing such material on TV—actually peels away neurons in the brain’s hippocampus. “That’s the part of your brain you need for problem solving,” [Blake] says. “Basically, it turns your brain to mush.”

Zetlin offers a few tactics for limiting your exposure to negativity, such as getting some distance, asking the complainer to change the situation, and even finding a happy place to retreat to when you are stuck with a Negative Ned or Nelly. Those tactics could work . . . if the complainers are other people.

But what if the complainer is the one I see in the mirror?

If I am the negative one, I need to think a bit more about how my words are affecting people. When I complain, it causes actual, measurable damage . . . to another person’s brain. That’s pretty serious. It makes sense why God’s Word cautions us to watch what we say and to encourage others. Our words are powerful, speaking life—or death—to those who hear us.

About Erin Straza

Erin Straza (Associate Editor) is a freelance writer, editor, and marketing communications consultant, helping organizations tell their stories in authentic and compelling ways. After a stint in corporate marketing while earning her MBA, Erin taught marketing communications at Illinois Wesleyan and Illinois State. She is crafting her first book, writing from the Illinois flatlands where she lives with her husband, Mike. Find more from Erin at her blog Filling My Patch of Sky and on Twitter @ErinStraza.
E-mail: erin [at] FillingMyPatchOfSky [dot] com
Blog: Filling My Patch of Sky
Twitter: @ErinStraza