We’ve all been guilty of this cardinal sin. You’ve had the day from hell; your boss was a nightmare, you had to skip lunch to catch up on emails, and, to top it all, the office gossip decided you were the story of the day. You had the best of intentions when you met your friend in a local bar for some post-work chit-chat; but before you knew it, you were spewing all that negativity right out onto the table. You might not have realized it at the time, but this kind of negative talk is bad for your health.
Though it may feel cathartic to whinge about your modern-day woes, you absolutely have to consider the long-term impact it has. Immediately after you spill the beans, you might well feel a whole load better; but what happens if your whinging and moaning becomes more of an incessant ritual than a simple byproduct of stress? The truth is that being a habitual whiner could be harming both your physical and mental health more than you know.
Your “Pet Peeves” Hinder Your Well-Being
We all have little things that annoy us, from people chewing too loudly to certain smells. Focusing on these irritations may seem like human nature, but it could actually be affecting your moods on a daily basis. In fact, according to a recent study, these seemingly insignificant nuisances could be affecting your overall well-being and level of mindfulness. In short, that means that the more you emphasize the things that get on your nerves in life, the greater power they have over you.
Complaining Can Lead to Depression
A problem shared is a problem halved, right? Well, not always. While we’ve been taught to believe that talking about our issues (or co-ruminating, if you want to get technical) is healthy, that may not be the case at all. The results of a 2007 study found that quite the opposite was true. The research suggested that the girls who tended to chat about their issues the most were at the highest risk of developing depression and anxiety later.
The reason behind these odd findings could be simple: When people focus on their problems, they tend to encompass them. “[People are] spending such a high percentage of their time dwelling on problems and concerns that it probably makes them feel sad and more hopeless about the problems because those problems are in the forefront of their minds. Those are symptoms of depression,” explained Amanda Rose, associate professor of psychological sciences. “In terms of anxiety, co-ruminating likely makes them feel more worried about the problems, including about their consequences.”
It Can Even Rot Your Brain
The idea of your brain cells simply rotting away may sound like something out of a low-budget sci-fi flick, but the threat could be very much real. According to research by Dr. Travis Bradberry, the more you come into contact with negativity, the less likely your brain is to function at its full potential.
“Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of the neurons in the hippocampus—an important area of the brain responsible for reasoning and memory,” he writes. “Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites (the small ‘arms’ that neurons use to communicate with each other), and months of stress can permanently destroy neurons.” If all the jargon there has you lost, the takeaway point here is that both your complaining and the whines of those around you could be ruining your gray matter.
Negativity Can Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease
Finally, here’s the most shocking way negativity could be affecting you. While it’s no huge stretch to see that complaining could be hindering your mind and moods, you may be surprised to learn that it can also impact your physical health. The words “heart disease” are enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine. As the cause of a quarter of all deaths in the US, it’s also likely one of the most feared medical conditions.
There’s no doubt that eating healthily and leading an active lifestyle will help you decrease your risk, but what else can you do? Well, becoming more of an optimist may just be the answer. In research published by the American Heart Association, the results showed that optimistic women had a massive 9% lower risk of developing heart disease than their pessimistic counterparts. So as overly poetic as it may sound, there’s weight to it too; your own negative words are the very cause of your heartache.