If you can't say something nice…

By Meghan Overdeep
July 17, 2019
David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

It’s estimated that the average person complains between 15 and 30 times a day. While it might feel good in the moment, complaining can do a lot more harm than you might think. And we’re not just talking about the people who have to listen to your incessant grumbling. It turns out that your brain can also suffer as a result of your repeated negativity.

Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining, or even being complained to, for 30 minutes or more can physically damage the brain. Seriously. Complaining has been found to shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain critical to problem solving and intelligent thought, by physically peeling away neurons. And trust us when we say that your hippocampus isn’t something you want to mess with.

Continued complaining also rewires the brain, making it much easier to repeat that behavior in the future. A Medium post by Mission.org explains this phenomenon perfectly: “The more you complain about things like flakey friends or being asked to push up a project’s deadline, the more neurons in your brain stitch themselves together to easily facilitate this kind of information. Before you know it, complaining becomes so easy for your brain to grasp, you start doing it without even consciously registering the behavior.”

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Basically, your brain makes sure that complaining begets more complaining, sabotaging itself in the process. So, the next time you find yourself on the verge of a grumble-fest, try to shift your focus to something you’re grateful for—your brain and your friends will thank you.

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