Do you often find yourself complaining about your problems?
Maybe you’ve reached this level of self-awareness on your own. Or perhaps those closest to you have mentioned how worn out they are from your constant moaning.
Either way, complaining about your issues without doing anything about them isn’t going to improve the situation.
In fact, it risks pushing away those you love, leaving you spiraling deeper into misery.
Below are 11 things you can do about the problems you’re contending with instead of merely griping about them.
The practical route: finding solutions to your problems.
Every problem has a solution, even if it isn’t immediately apparent.
Through a process of elimination (and honesty toward the self), these solutions eventually rise to the surface.
Below are some tips on how to resolve the issues you keep complaining about.
1. Gain perspective on the situation.
It’s difficult to see our surroundings clearly when we’re stuck in them.
It’s like trying to climb out of the well you’re in without any light to illuminate the surrounding area.
If you’re having trouble determining the solution to your current problems, it’s because you’re too deeply mired in them.
Here’s a simple way to take a fresh look at things:
Go to a location that’s completely different from anywhere you wander in your normal, day-to-day life. You’re aiming to avoid all personal patterns, so choose a place you’d ordinarily never go to, and get cozy.
Then make a list of all the frustrations you’re currently dealing with.
Once you have those written down, make notes of all the contributing factors that you think could relate to each frustration.
For example, I was once incredibly frustrated by the fact that I wasn’t making progress in increasing my arm strength through exercise. It was only through the process of trial, error, and elimination that I determined there was a weakness in my wrists, rather than my arms.
As such, I was able to adapt my technique to accommodate that weakness until I could build up sufficient wrist strength. Frustration with my perceived shortcomings disappeared because I could take solid action to improve things.
2. Practice positive thought switching.
Every time you catch yourself complaining about a problem, replace that complaint by focusing on gratitude instead.
For example, if you feel frustrated by your lack of sleep because your kids keep waking up in the night, focus on how much you love them instead.
You may need to hurt your own feelings a bit in order to drive this home, at least at the beginning.
For instance, if you catch yourself complaining about the latest mess your kid has made and how you’ll have to clean it up, consider how you’d feel if your child was suddenly no longer in your life. This should shock you away from the irritation and toward gratitude instead.
3. Adjust your responses to the situation.
Many people complain about problems because they don’t have the strength or confidence to face those problems.
Sometimes this is due to fear of confrontation, other times it’s because of people-pleasing tendencies.
Instead of speaking out about unfair circumstances or unacceptable behavior, people will nod and smile politely in the moment and then express their emotions to those whom they consider “safe” later.
Should you find yourself clamming up instead of expressing how you feel, then change your standard response.
Rather than saying you’d be happy to do the thing that someone’s asking you to do, express that you’d appreciate it if they could handle it themselves instead.
If you find that you can’t express that verbally in the moment, write a note after the fact to let the other person know how you feel—hopefully they’ll take it to heart and change the situation in the future. If not, you may need to repeat this process a few times until real change happens.
4. Find different ways to release your tension.
We all have our own ways of alleviating stress and emotional upset, and physical activity is one of the most helpful ones.
Most of us complain about difficulties because of a buildup of cortisol and adrenaline in our bodies. Your body releases these whenever you’re angry or stressed, and unless you find a way to work them out of your system, they build up.
These build-ups can cause anxiety, high blood pressure, irritability, depression, gut imbalances, and depression.
As you can imagine, this in turn causes people to complain about all these issues. Try to find different ways to release this pent-up energy, such as through exercise or journaling.
5. Vent to someone who has the bandwidth to help you.
Did you know that there’s a difference between complaining and venting? People often use these terms interchangeably, but they aren’t the same thing.
Venting involves a conscious decision to alleviate built-up tension with someone who consents to listen to you. This is usually done with a therapist or other counselor, as they’re ideal listeners who don’t mind hearing about all your difficulties while offering you potential solutions.
Alternatively, you can ask a close friend or family member if they have the mental and emotional bandwidth to help you vent.
When we simply dump our emotions onto other people without asking first, we run the risk of adding to whatever troubles they’re dealing with. Think of times when you’ve been having a horrible day and someone you know starts frothing at the mouth about how bad they have it. Don’t be that person.
Instead, ask if they’re able to listen to you and then keep checking in as you talk to determine when they’ve reached their limit.
6. Get plenty of sleep.
Anyone who has ever dealt with a stubborn toddler who refuses to nap knows how short-tempered people get when they’re sleep-deprived. Mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and cognitive impairment are often associated with chronic sleep deprivation.
If you aim to get regular, deep, restful sleep, you may find that you have much more emotional and mental resilience than you thought. As a result, you may end up having significantly less to complain about.
7. Choose to change.
Whatever you’re not changing, you’re choosing.
If you’re complaining a lot about your problems but doing nothing to change your circumstances, then you are making the conscious decision to stay in the situation and thus don’t have real grounds to complain about it.
Take note of the things you complain about the most and consider how you can go about changing them.
While you’re doing so, also write down the various excuses you’ve been using to justify why you haven’t made any real changes to your situation yet.
For example, if you’re complaining because you’re the only person doing any work around the house, consider the ways you’ve been justifying why your partner or family members can’t or don’t help, such as “oh, they’re too tired from school,” or “I’m better at it and I’d just have to redo whatever they did.”
By being honest with yourself about your own role in these issues, you can make a conscious decision to change them.
The mindful route: how to stop problems from dominating your mind.
If you’re complaining about problems that stem from abstract things, things outside of your control, or situations that have long since passed, many of the suggestions mentioned above may not apply.
Instead, you might want to focus on managing your thoughts—namely how to relieve the effects that the issues have on your peace of mind.
Here are some of the techniques that may help loosen their hold on you:
8. Seek out the source.
Complaining is often a choice we make when we are so frustrated by a repetitive behavior or cycle we find ourselves trapped within.
The individual often feels powerless to change this cycle and is therefore reduced to voicing their annoyance about the issue over and over again.
This is why it’s so important to determine the root of where these complaints come from.
It’s rather like going to your healthcare provider to figure out where various symptoms stem from instead of merely treating symptoms at home and hoping for the best. In doing so, you may discover that the real cause of what you’re complaining about is something far different to what you think.
It may be a situation in which you’re fully aware of what’s causing the worst of your distress, but you’re either in deep denial about it and don’t want to accept it, or you had been blinded to it by assuming the cause was something else.
Once you have answers to what’s causing the distress, it will likely lose its hold on you. This is rather like how people with severe anxiety generally find that their worries dissipate once they have firm answers. What causes their anxiety is the unknown, so once facts come to light, most issues lose their hold over them.
9. Redirect your focus.
For this to work effectively, you’ll need to be aware of your natural cycles.
For instance, do you find that you tend to get agitated or anxious in the evenings, and that’s when you start to complain more? People often get stuck in patterns when there is no conscious effort to break them.
Ensure that you distract yourself with something more engaging at times when you’re normally agitated.
If you’re focused on something that requires your concentration, there will be no room for your intrusive thoughts and emotions.
Find a craft or other engaging pastime that you can immerse in entirely at that time of day, and make it a regular habit. Before you know it, you will have re-written your daily script with something far healthier.
10. Change your social circle.
Or at least, take a break from it.
We develop certain dynamics with the people we regularly associate with. You may have noticed that people who spend a lot of time together end up rehashing the same topics of conversation. This also includes perpetually complaining about perceived conflicts and other personal issues.
In fact, positive aspects are often ignored in favor of the temporary thrill that comes from stirring up drama.
If you find that the people you spend the most time with are exacerbating your tendency to complain more than they’re inspiring great new topics to discuss, then that’s an unhealthy situation to remove yourself from.
You don’t have to abandon people you’ve been friends with for years, but instead, take more time for yourself, or spend more time with those who are either more positive, or are actively engaged in pastimes that inspire positivity.
11. Consider getting professional help.
If you’ve been complaining about issues that cannot be resolved through your direct action because they’re beyond your control (e.g. childhood trauma, bad breakups, and so on) then you will likely benefit from the help that a trained professional can provide.
They can be especially helpful if you feel that you’ve exhausted all potential causes on your own but you feel as though there are deep-seated factors that you can’t access for one reason or another.
A professional can ask the right questions and tease out the clues from your answers that may shed light on what’s truly behind the complaints you are making.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.