Doesn’t complaining feel good sometimes? Commiserating with a coworker, letting it all out with your partner or friend, or playing the tape in our head of all the things not going right.
Here’s the thing: Complaining—or focusing on what we don’t have, what’s not going well, and what isn’t working—can become a habit that keeps us living in a state of negative thinking. And it’s easy to be unaware of how deeply it impacts us to live this way.
Of course, there are times when complaining is completely justified, especially with the extraordinary circumstances we’ve lived through over the last 18 months. But many of us make the unconscious choice to complain every day and don’t realize we’re doing it. We’re spending valuable time and attention focused on what’s not working, which can have detrimental effects on our ability to feel positive emotions, experience success—and go after what we want.
We have the power to get out of the complaining and negative thinking that holds us back. The Complaint Game, a technique developed by Victoria M. Gallagher in her book, the “Practical Law of Attraction,” is a great way to make the shift. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Choose a personal issue or area of your life where you’re currently unsatisfied. It could be:
For example: I can’t find a partner and experience a healthy, fulfilling relationship.
Step 2: Take five minutes and write down everything that makes you unhappy in this area of your life, making a list of a minimum of 10 complaints.
- It’s impossible to find good people to meet.
- It takes so much time to try to meet people.
- I don’t have the energy to do this.
- I can’t connect with anyone.
- There’s something wrong with me.
- I’m sad that I can’t put myself out there.
- My job and career take up too much energy.
- I don’t want to meet someone online or through a service.
- I find it too hard to talk with someone I don’t know.
- I’m the only one I know who doesn’t have a partner.
Step 3: Now, change those complaints to preferences: counter statements that express what you’d prefer to experience instead. These statements will help you get clear about what you actually do want and shift your tone and energy from negative to positive.
Here are some sentence starters: I enjoy…, I choose to…, I am working toward…, I now create…, I look forward to…, I am in the process of…, I am committed to…, I like…, I love it when…, It feels good when…, I can…, I am learning to…, I am choosing to believe…
If we stay with the relationship example, the preferences could look like:
- I am choosing to believe that there are a lot of interesting people in the world.
- I can make time and space for someone to come into my life.
- It feels good when I go out with other people, so I can find the energy to do this once a week.
- I’m changing my perspective and learning to relax about how I connect with people.
- I am in the process of changing and am committed to it, while understanding that I am enough just as I am today.
- It feels good when I put myself out there, even in small ways.
- I am committed to making more time for myself, pursuing my interests, and working on myself.
- I am learning to open up to new ways of meeting people.
- I am working toward being less nervous when I speak with someone new.
- I love it when I spend time with friends and family who have found partners and realize that I am no less significant because I am single.
Keep your new preferences handy and refer back to them. Try reading them in the morning before starting your day and at night before bed. Keeping them top of mind helps interrupt our brain’s habit of seeing the downside, while also helping it process and accept the new perspective. You can use this technique whenever you start to feel bogged down by what’s not going well, and feel the shift. Remember, even the smallest changes count.