“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.” – Alex Korb, PHD.
We have all met people who constantly complain about the most trivial and non-trivial things alike, or the person who starts a vicious fight in public over an armrest on the metro.
All of us complain occasionally. Some just complain more than others.
Chronic complaining is a self-inflicted state of mind, which, if not dealt with on time, can set our brains on a hard to shake off downward spiral of depression. Viewing the world through such a lens can cause us to see negativity where none exists.
Complainers generally fall into three categories:
These people, most often, think that more bad things are happening to them than anyone else – life is simply rigged against them.
They use their victimhood state mainly to seek attention and pity from others.
Chronic complainers spend their existence in a constant state of complaint.
If they don’t have anyone to complain to, they will be thinking of complaining.
Low E.Q. Complainers:
Here we have people with low emotional quotient (E.Q.).
Generally, they don’t care about what people have to say, and only use others as sounding boards to vent their frustrations.
However, as frustrating they might be to deal with, we should not be too harsh to judge people who fall under these categories.
Our brain carries something called negativity bias. It is the tendency to put more focus on negative instead of positive events.
Author of Buddha’s Brain, Dr. Rick Hanson, points out:
“Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intensive positive ones. They are also perceived more easily and quickly.”
Thus, the more attention we spend on the negative aspects surrounding us, the more we will fire and re-fire the neurons responsible for the negativity bias.
Thankfully there are ways in which we can improve this soul-crushing condition.
Neuroscientist Alex Korb has written what many would consider the go-to manual when it comes to the question of how to rid ourselves of a constant state of negativity. In his book The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time, he points out:
“You can turn a tendency toward a downward spiral of depression and anxiety into an upward spiral of joy and clarity in your life.”
“Be as patient and kind with yourself as you would be with a cute little puppy that you’re trying to house train. Stressing the puppy out will only make it pee on the floor.”
With regards to physical exercise Korb advises:
“In particular, aerobic exercises, like running and biking, are best at boosting serotonin. Interestingly, if you try to do too much exercise or feel forced to do it, it may not have the right effect.”
Surprisingly, something as simple as showing gratitude can have a great effect on battling the downward spiral.
In a recent interview with Dan Lukasik from lawyerswithdepression.com, Dr. Korb expands:
“Yes, when you’re in a depressed state it’s much harder to see the positive aspects of your life. But that’s why it’s all the more important to build a habit of looking for those positive things because often the most important feature of gratitude is not finding something to be grateful for. It’s remembering to look in the first place because that activates the prefrontal cortex which is the more thinking part of the brain which helps it to regulate the emotional regions of the brain that are going haywire in depression.
And gratitude increases activity in the key region of the brain called the cingulate cortex that sits at the intersection between the emotional limbic system and the rational prefrontal cortex and helps modulate communication between those. Remembering things in your past that you are happy or grateful for actually increases the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin in that same brain region and serotonin is one of the most common targets for antidepressant medications. Practicing gratitude is having effects in key brain regions that we know contribute to depression and in the neurotransmitter systems that are contributing to depression.”
There are plenty of ways in which we can help ourselves to develop a more positive outlook on life, we just have to be willing to put in the necessary efforts into it, one small step at a time.