It’s probably the best (or the worst!) thing I’ve ever given up!
And I am writing because giving this up may be the most powerful and life-changing thing I can encourage you to do in the next few days/weeks/months….years!
Admittedly, I had never given up anything for Lent before. And also admittedly, I didn’t want to give up a lot of things! Gluttony, laziness, self-centeredness,… they can be so easy to justify!
But, for 40 days I went “cold turkey” on complaining. And, but some slip ups along the way, it was really beneficial to body, mind, soul and relationships.
I now want to make it a way of life...
I didn’t know how I came to the concept of giving up complaint for the 40 days of Lent. But I wonder, “Why was I never encouraged to do this before?” What made me think that complaining was just part of life? Even if it was wreaking havoc on health, relationships, effectiveness and overall joy and happiness?
Well, forget the fact that complaining has pretty much been hard wired into many of us from the time we were young. Forget the fact that studies show that most people complain once a minute in a typical conversation! Forget the fact that strangers on lines and in airport almost universally complain.
As my friend Steve says, “Complaining feels good!“
Kind of like most destructive habits… at least at first. Smoking. Eating a diet of donuts. Drinking too much.
And now science shows that complaining actually
- Rewires our brains and makes negativity a habit (“Neurons that fire together wire together”)
- Increases the stress hormone cortisol (which increases blood pressure and blood sugar)
- Shrinks the brain’s hippocampus (the area of problem solving)
- Makes others around us become negative too (called “neural mirroring”)
Complaining is basically a national health crisis! (Consider the increase in depression, obesity, suicide, high blood pressure, divorce....) So, why aren’t we hearing more about it?
Well, I would say that there’s no “just take this” drug out there to cure complaining. And it’s easier to just let it slide.
HOWEVER: Fasting from it can rewire our brains. Fasting, by definition, means “abstaining.” It comes from the Hebrew word to “cover the mouth.” And its a spiritual practice, usually from food and/or drink, that leads us to recognize dependence and an opening up ourselves to an immaterial reality.
First, I can tell you from my experience, the postive effects of a complaining fast are for real.This was the first such fast ever for me. But it made for more good days. I had (and saw!) more joy and positive things in my life in those 40 days. I saw more good in others. I felt more productive and even healthier.
However, it also wasn’t easy. In other words, fasting from complaining is not a “no brainer.” It actually takes some work. Focus. Mindfulness.
Here’s what I learned about how to do this fast.
1. Detect Your Inner Complaints
It’s incredible how easy it is to “complain to ourselves.” I caught myself complaining about
- Myself (“Why can’t you be better at that?!”)
- Others ("Why are they so annoying?")
- Lack ("I need more! Way more!")
- Busyness (“I wish I didn’t have so much to do!”
- Feeling (“I’m tired!" "I feel sick”)
- Money (“Where does it all go?”)
And the inner words of complaining include "Shoot!"(or it's alternative) "Crap!" "Nuts!" "Aughhh!" And many, many more.
2. Detect Your Verbalized Complaints (before you say them!)
The key is realizing “this is a complaint” before it comes out of our mouth. Bite your lip! Try not letting it come out. Maybe replace it with a prayer.
3. Deny complaints “air time.”
Don't let them rent space in your brain. Then, decide not to “say” or “think about the complaint.” “Thank you, but you're not welcome here.”
4. Detonate complaining with gratitude.
You can’t complain and be grateful at the same time! You just can’t! And being grateful. The best way to do away with most bad habits is to replace them with something positive. In this case, it's gratitude that not only replace but it also
- Releases serotonin (the stuff antidepressants try to bring more of )
- Releases dopamine
- Rewires our brains to see the good
- Builds better relationships.
Or really many other postive habits can replace complaining. Exercise. Doing an act of service. Praying. Praising something good.
So, what do you think? that if you were to intentionally fast from complaining this weekend? This week? This month?
Are you open to it? Post below if you are …. and share your journey!