I recently had a "sponsored article" pop up on my Facebook feed entitled The Science of Happiness: Why complaining is literally killing you, by Science and Nonduality.
**Disclaimer** I want to be clear that I in no way endorse or believe in any of the spiritual tenants this website professes. I merely found the science presented regarding the effects of complaining on the brain thought-provoking.
The article's title drew me in because you guessed it, I'm a complainer.
Merriam-Webster shares the following simple definition of the word complain:
: to say or write that you are unhappy, sick, uncomfortable, etc., or that you do not like something
: to say (something that expresses annoyance or unhappiness)
The very essence of complaining is normally not something done in solitude, but with the purpose of telling others.
I am someone that wears her heart on her sleeve. It's almost as though I need to express my complaints to others or I'll explode! Not really, but you get the gist...
In reality, complaining is my ill-conceived perception that I am fixing the problem or the feeling that I am taking an active role in the situation - staying in control...
My need to complain is selfish and does not take into account the happiness of those around me.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
A joyful heart is good medicine
According to the article The Science of Happiness: Why complaining is literally killing you, our "brains have a collection of synapses separated by empty space called the synaptic cleft. Whenever we 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 we're thinking about. It’s very similar to how nerves carry electric from the sensation in your toe all the way up to your brain where it’s actually “felt”.
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. Your thoughts reshape your brain...
...the synapses you’ve most strongly bonded together (by thinking about more frequently) come to represent your default personality: your intelligence, skills, aptitudes, and most easily accessible thoughts(which are more-or-less the source of your conversation skills)...
It’s not just our thoughts that can alter our brain and shift those synapses; the thoughts of those around us can do it as well.
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. And it does this by attempting to fire the same synapses in our own brain so that we can attempt to relate to the emotion we're observing. This is basically empathy.
This is why it is so important to spend time with people who lift us up, because 'Debbie-Downer' friends are moving those fearful, cynical, pessimistic synapses closer together, making our default, short-path-personality as jaded and bitter as our peers. Want to be happy? We need to surround ourselves with happy people who rewire our brain towards love, not towards fear. I’m NOT saying don’t be there for friends who are having a hard time and need an ear or who need to work through a difficult situation. Nor am I saying you can’t be critical about the failings and injustices in the world. Positive change usually requires critical thought."
I think there might be some truth to the science presented in this article because I know the more I complain, the MORE I complain. I get into a vicious cycle where I end up complaining about the silliest things. Apparently my complaining synapses are attached!
I have also found that when I spend time with someone who constantly complains, I myself start complaining more, if not about my own problems, but about the other person's complaining.
It can be very exhausting to spend time with a complainer. You can try to encourage them and be positive, but they just come back with another complaint and another complaint, discounting any encouragement offered.
Do I want to be a complainer that reshapes her brain to a default of ALWAYS complaining??
Do I want to be that complainer that exhausts people and causes them to stumble??
God's Word has very clear admonishments against complaining...
Do all things without grumbling or questioning.
Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes,
and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.
Nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.
1 Corinthians 10:10
They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the Lord.
Through our complaining, we are not only negatively impacting the physiological make-up of our brains, but those we are constantly complaining to as well.
The most devastating effect of complaining is that we are dragging Christ's name through the mud by such a poor testimony.
Nothing touches us without coming from the hand of God first - from the biggest trial to the smallest nuisance, the Lord ordains those circumstances for our good and His good purposes.
The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.
So when we complain about anything effecting us, we are essentially complaining about God!
May it never be!
Soon after reading The Science of Happiness: Why complaining is literally killing you, I read a quote by David Mathis from his book Habits of Grace which essentially describes the Biblical antidote to the scientific data about complaining presented in the article above.
"When we memorize lines from the Bible, we are shaping our minds in the moment to mimic the structure and mindset of the mind of God."
Let that sink in...
There is so much power in the active and living Word of God! Power to reshape and renew our minds to have the mindset of God; a mindset that will pour out in our words and actions, bringing Glory to God!
Do not be conformed to this world, but BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWAL
OF YOUR MIND, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our INNER SELF IS BEING RENEWED DAY BY DAY.
2 Corinthians 4:16
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will GUARD YOUR HEARTS AND MINDS in Christ Jesus.
And to be RENEWED IN THE SPIRIT OF YOUR MINDS
Therefore, PREPARING YOUR MINDS FOR ACTION, AND BEING SOBER-MINDED set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:13
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and TAKE EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE TO OBEY CHRIST.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
SET YOUR MINDS ON THINGS THAT ARE ABOVE, not on things that are on earth.
Let the song of our hearts be...
May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and pow’r controlling
All I do and say.
May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His pow’r.
Kate B. Wilkinson
Thank you Grace & Truth for featuring this post. :-)
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