By Tessa Greenspan & Nanette Wiser

Do you serve whine with your cheese when you gather with friends? Complaining, or kvetching, can be good or bad for the soul depending on its persona…and the person you’re talking to.

With a therapist, airing out truths can be quite freeing and actually relieve you of negative feelings. A professional is non-judgmental and has no juice in the game to influence you one way or the other on decisions. In fact, eliminating toxic people (friends, family, work colleagues) or learning to deal with them in a healthy way can relieve stress and help you focus on what really matters.

Choosing the right person to talk about complaints is fraught with danger. Can you trust them with your secrets? Do they have an agenda that is not supportive in positively discussing changes you might make to clean up your thinking. As Dr. Michael Mantell says, the link is what you think.

Negative thinking can have a physiological component. Dr. Gerald Epstein once said to me that it’s now what is your headache but who is your headache, noting that the mind-body-spirit connection can be quite literal.  Cortisol levels increase, and higher levels can increase the risk of heart disease.

 It can affect your brain as well. Each time you complain, your brain rewires itself, making it easier to adapt to that reaction in the future and MRI scans have shown that constant complaining can lead to the shrinkage of the hippocampus, the region of your brain responsible for cognitive functioning. The smaller your hippocampus, the more likely you are to have memory decline, as well as have difficulty adapting to new situations.

Here are ten tips for thwarting negativity and getting off the kvetching hamster wheel:

  1. Choose an attitude of gratefulness and positivity and look for the glass half full when assessing a situation, not half empty. Practice saying positive things to yourself when you wake up and during the day.
  2. Manage thought control, and put a positive spin on a negative thought. Instead of “I’m lonely working at home,” spin it to “I have more time to exercise in the morning instead of commuting to work in traffic.”
  3. Take control. Instead of “I have to” say “I get to” when overwhelmed. “I have to clean the house” can become “I get to listen to music when I clean the house.” It works.
  4. Don’t dwell on what’s upsetting you; fix it and move on. Accept what’s happened and learn from it rather than waste your emotional energy on “what ifs.”
  5. If you manage an employee with a bad attitude, coach them to display acceptable behavior and provide feedback so the person can be successful in reducing negative actions.
  6. QTIP- Quit Taking It Personally. Throw out the victim mentality and face your negative emotions with the courage to move beyond the wounding. Do not give negative comments power and surround yourself with people who believe in you.
  7. Let go of what you can’t control. Politics and the election news, global events, the pandemic trigger negativity and stress. Make an effort to pick ONE thing you can control, like making masks for first responders or writing thank you notes to local nurses rather than focusing on the trauma.
  8. Get out of your head and write in your journal daily. Replace the loop of negative thinking by writing down what bothers you and what you can do about it. You’ll feel better just by getting it out of your head and on paper. Ask yourself what’s one good thing that came out of this negative and what you can do about it next time.
  9. Just smile or laugh. Put on a comedy, watch funny cat videos, do an online class in laughing yoga. Scientific research says smiling triggers the release of neurotransmitters that release serotonin and dopamine into your brain, better known as “happy chemicals.”
  10. Stop making mountains out of molehills.  Ask yourself whether this negative situation will matter in five months…or five years. Then do something physical (clean house, garden, walk) to get yourself out of the moment.

What’s the bottom line in eliminating negative thinking? Well, it’s better to be an optimist who is sometimes wrong than a pessimist who is always right.

St. Louis author and motivational speaker Tessa Greenspan‘s international bestseller, “From Outhouse to Penthouse – Life Lessons on Love, Laughter and Leadership,” is available on Amazon here.  “Failure is not an option,” is Greenspan’s motto.  Follow her on Facebook and Nanette Wiser is a multimedia journalist and media consultant ([email protected])