How to stop complaining

angry megaphone complain
One other reason to stop: No one likes a crankypants.
Credit: Wavebreak Media

Do you have a knack for zeroing in on what’s wrong in a situation? Do you tend to focus on what’s not working rather than what is? Do you fixate on flaws and let them ruin your experiences?

Heads up: You’ve fallen into the trap of complaining. It happens. Even the most positive and easygoing among us can get caught in it. But you’ve probably noticed that complaining doesn’t actually make you feel better. In fact, it usually darkens your outlook and saps your energy. When you find yourself breaking out complaints more often than you’re expressing gratitude, turn things around by getting to the core of your behavior.

There are three big reasons we complain — and simple ways to tackle each one.

1. We’re bored. When we feel uninspired we often look for things to complain about. It can be easier to direct our energy toward something negative than it is to get creative and find ways to stimulate our mind. The best way to combat this pattern is to redirect your focus. Choose to shift your energy from complaining to celebrating. For instance, if you catch yourself complaining about the food at lunch, immediately shift your focus onto what you plan to cook for dinner. Instead of fixating on what you don’t like, take back your sense of control and think about what you can create. When you realize you’re capable of effecting change, the urge to complain fades.

2. We’re not happy. Often when we complain about the negativity around us we’re unwilling to look at the negativity within us. Therefore, we project our sadness outward by complaining about other people, our surroundings or life in general. It’s easier and more comfortable to blame things external to us. But I’ll let you in on an open secret: Facing up to the negativity within is liberating, because you can change it. The simple way out of this pattern is to focus on the good stuff. Proactively choose to focus on what feels good and what makes you happy. Scientific research backs up the idea that focusing on what makes you happy really does bring more joy, energy and excitement into your life. Set an alarm for three times throughout the day, and when it goes off do something simple to shift your focus. Play a song you love, write down what you’re grateful for in that moment or call a friend.

3. It’s a habit. Whenever I notice myself complaining I witness an old habit showing up. Even though this pattern of behavior no longer resonates with me, it still seems to pop up from time to time. The best way to change the habit is to witness it and then choose to see it differently. If you can catch yourself in the exact moment that you’re complaining you can pivot and choose to change your attitude in an instant. That moment of change establishes a new pattern that creates healthier behavior. Each time you catch yourself and choose to see things differently, you reinforce that healthy new pattern. And that’s a miracle.

Complaining, like any habit, can be tough to quit. After all, complaining about a situation makes us feel like we’re not in charge of it, and therefore that we aren’t responsible for doing the work to change it. But if you want to escape the trap, it’s not only easier than you think, but it’s exhilarating, too. Your new behavior will make you feel happier, lighter and more energetic, and it will also elevate everyone around you. Bring forth your happiest self and shine light upon the world.

Gabrielle Bernstein is the author of “Spirit Junkie.” Contact her at


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