Thought Catalog
April 13, 2017

Why Complaining Is Actually Terrible For Your Overall Well-Being

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Autri Taheri

What Is Emotional Farting? How It’s Impacting Your Health

You know that person.

It’s the coworker who won’t shut up about your other coworkers. It’s your best friend who complains about her guy. It’s your mom telling you you don’t visit the doctor enough.\

The complainer.

Complaining, affectionately called emotional farting by researcher and psychologist Jeffrey Lohr, is a phenomenon that seems to affect everyone at some point or another. Maybe you’re even guilty of complaining yourself.

The problem is that complaining is actually pretty detrimental to your health. Emotional farting is just that—releasing something toxic should be healthy, but instead it ends up hurting us.

Here’s how.

The Paradox of Complaining

Venting makes a lot of people feel better. The problem is, this is a paradox that actually has the reverse effect on your body and psychological health.

Although complaining to your friends, coworkers, family, or significant other may feel good at the time, the fact is that emotional farting actually increases your risk for chronic disease and even weight gain!

How does this happen?

Here’s How Emotional Farting Affects Your Physical Health

The link between emotional farting and negative health is cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that’s released whenever we perceive a threat—many of you may know this as fight-or-flight response.

When you complain, your body releases cortisol in your bloodstream. After its released, cortisol begins to have an affect on your body: it raises your heart rate and blood pressure, lowers your immune function, and can even increase fat in your abdominal area.

Prolonged exposure to cortisol can actually hinder your thyroid function, affect your cognitive abilities, disrupt your blood sugar, sleep patterns, and even lower your muscle mass.

So the more you complain, the more frequently your body is exposed to cortisol. The more your body is exposed to cortisol, the more likely you are to experience a heightened risk for heart disease, hypertension, and even stroke or adrenal fatigue as the result of simply complaining rather than taking positive action.

Complaining Actually Wires Your Brain for Unhappiness and Potentially Even Mental Illness

The kicker about complaining is that is can actually restructure your brain!

Your thoughts—especially repetitive thoughts—can rewire synapses in your brain to connect faster. What this means is that where before there was space between one negative thought and the next, now there is a decreased amount of space, or a bridge if you will.

This means complaining leads to more complaining and more negative thoughts.

Negative thoughts make it easier to think more negative thoughts. The same is true for hanging out with negative people. They just breed negativity!

Unfortunately, this type of mental distress could actually trigger individuals who are already predisposed to mental illness.

Research even shows that people who complain tend to deal with their anger or frustration in maladaptive ways. For example, studies show that these people tend to have negative behaviors and more physical expressions of anger than people who handle their emotional farting with grace.

People think that expressing their anger or complaining makes them feel better, but it actually leads to more anger and aggression, as Jeffrey Lohr and his colleagues have shown consistently through their research.

How to Fart the Right Way

The good news is that there is a right way to complain, one that won’t increase your risk for chronic disease, a heart attack, or negative behaviors.

Complaining less—or complaining in the right way—is better for your health. If you’re concerned about your risk of chronic disease such as heart disease, visit a doctor in your healthcare plan for a free screening to ensure you’re healthy.

One way to complain correctly is mindful complaining.

Mindful complaining is expressing complaints with a goal in mind. People who do this understand what needs to happen in order for their situation to change and to prevent the same events from occurring that dictate their complaints.

Research shows these people tend to be happier than people who complain just for the sake of complaining.

When you complain but reject offers for help or suggestions for things to change, you create more negativity and tend to be unhappy compared to those people who complain with the mindset of changing their situation.

So here’s how you can complain—or emotionally fart—the right way and make a difference!
• Complain using facts and figures. Don’t complain when you’re not even sure what you’re complaining about and why. Facts and figures bring a solidity to your claims.
• Know who has the authority to bring about change. For example, complaining to your coworker about your hours will not have the same effect as complaining to your boss. Unless your coworker makes the schedule!
• Understand when complaining is a tool for you to get what you want vs. a way for you to just vent. When you aim to achieve goals through venting, it become beneficial rather than harmful and can alleviate the cycle of emotional farting.
• Write down your complaints. Research proves that writing down your complaints in a non-emotional way can help you to set goals and therefore work to make them a reality.
You can take action instead of complaining! Know when complaining is benefitting you and when it’s harming you. It’s not difficult to notice the difference. Mindless complaining is much different than mindful complaining. One will take you down a dark path while the other will help you improve your life.

Is emotional farting ok? Absolutely, but in the right way. TC mark