April 12, 2023

Why Complaining Isn't Always a Bad Thing: The Science Behind the Power of Venting

Why Complaining Isn't Always a Bad Thing: The Science Behind the Power of Venting

Today we're diving into a topic that might surprise you: why complaining can actually be good for your mental health. We often think of complaining as a negative behavior, but research suggests that venting our frustrations and sharing our problems...

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Today we're diving into a topic that might surprise you: why complaining can actually be good for your mental health.

We often think of complaining as a negative behavior, but research suggests that venting our frustrations and sharing our problems with others can actually have some surprising benefits.

Here are a few key takeaways from our discussion:

  • First, complaining can help us process negative emotions. When we bottle up our frustrations or try to ignore them, they can fester and grow until they become overwhelming. By expressing our concerns and grievances, we can start to work through them and find a sense of closure.
  • Second, complaining can foster empathy and social connection. When we share our struggles with others, it helps us feel less alone and can help us build deeper connections with those around us. It also gives our friends and loved ones an opportunity to offer support and perspective.
  • Of course, there's a fine line between productive venting and chronic negativity. We don't want to get stuck in a cycle of complaining without taking action or seeking solutions. But if we can find a healthy balance, complaining can be a useful tool for managing stress and maintaining our mental well-being.

So the next time you're feeling frustrated or upset, don't be afraid to share your feelings with a trusted friend or family member. You might be surprised at how much it can help!

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Jeremy: [00:00:00] moaning, whining, and complaining. It's super annoying , and while we often think of complaining as a negative behavior, research suggests it can actually be good for our mental health and wellbeing.

Zach: So is complaining really all that bad today we'll explore the science behind my complaining might not be so bad after all.

Jeremy: Zach? I couldn't get your voice out of my head. Last weekend I

Zach: That sounds terrible. I don't even know what the, I don't even know what the context is, but that sounds.

Jeremy: and I wasn't even listening to our show, so it was just, your voice was just there. But, uh, I, I was, I was having kind of a rough time and I was asked by a friend, [00:01:00] what's going on?

You okay? And I gave sort of the typical, eh, yeah, I'm all right. And, and the response was, yeah, it seems like it, what's going on? And I said, you know, I don't want to complain. I, I just, I'm, I'm trying to, I'm trying to not do that as much. Uh, it just, it feels like a waste of time and.

Keep in mind, this is a seed that is planted by all of the readings of, of Ryan Holiday that I do, where he talks about Marcus Aurelius and how he, , thinks complaining is a complete waste of time. Uh, he even wrote, never be caught complaining even to yourself.

And so that's something I'm trying to hang onto is this idea of just like, don't complain. Focus on what you can control. Focus on solutions to the problems rather than just dwelling and dumping on people. And wha way, poor me, you know, whoa is me. And, uh, my friend, mutual friend of ours said to me, I completely disagree with that.

There's loads of value in complaining. Like getting that stuff out helps you process it helps you get. On how to find the solution. And so where your voice [00:02:00] popped into my head to counter Marcus Aurelius and our mutual friend was you going? Yeah. Dummy. Question your beliefs. So here I am questioning, why am I clinging to this idea of not complaining?

Why is it so important to me to be right about this? Partially because it's from a pretty smart guy from a long time ago who wrote some pretty good stuff. So I'm trying to like, you know, follow the leader on. But ultimately, I mean, I, I generally feel better after I vent and after I complain. I mean, I, I do it with you enough, so why it, it just struck me again, just all the stuff we talk about here, questioning your beliefs and, and all the people that we follow.

And so I was curious. I I was looking forward to recording today cause I wanna get your take on complaining. Does complaining have value for.

Zach: Absolutely. so. I would've said the same thing, I do. I disagree. Like I think complaining has its place. It gets things off of your chest. It really does. Like, I feel 10 times better , if I'm really frustrated, like just venting it out [00:03:00] there, not looking for a solution.

I'm not dwelling in it. I'm not doing anything and it's never anything that I can control. , , you have been the recipient of many of my, , events over the last year as I've gone through this whole, you know, divorce process. It gets it off your chest. Yeah. I think there's a great deal of value in it.

Now, where I think he's right is once you've gotten it off your chest, , you're done. That's it. Like you've gotten it off your chest, it's out of your control. You've either complained to a person who will listen or you've complained to a person who has the power to make a change to what you're complaining about, and then you gotta step back and say, I've complained, I've done my thing.

Either it's gonna change or it's not gonna change, but either way I'm going to accept it. And that's where outside control things, right? For things outside of, if it's something that you can control, like if I'm sitting here complaining that I can't lose weight or complaining that, , my car is not inspected right now because I haven't made the appointment to get the [00:04:00] tint removed from the front windows,

Jeremy: That's a very specific example.

Zach: It is one that is, is bothering me because my car is technically not legal at the moment. Right. That's on me. I don't complain about it though. I really don't because that's on me. So if it's something that I do have direct control over, , again, complaining for a venting session to get it out, like, oh man, I just need to talk to you about this thing because it's overwhelming and I, I have to do it.

I'm gonna, I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna complain. I think complaining has a great deal of value in our mental health. I think stuffing it down and saying, well, I can't change it, so I might as well just ignore it. I don't know. I think that's unhealthy. Personally, I I, I agree with many, many things that Marcus Aureus says.

Jeremy: But not this one. He's office


Zach: I think he lives in a different time, I think, I think he's partially right, but I think there's value in both [00:05:00] sides.

Jeremy: So the, the other point in the conversation where the, the questioning of that belief really rang true is I was like, How many thousands of dollars in, in therapy have you spent to go sit on your therapist's couch or get on a Zoom call and just unload your shit on him? And then every time you're like, oh, that's weird, I feel better.

So, I mean, I, it's, I don't know what to do with it other than like you're saying, I think that perhaps there is more value than I'm giving it credit for. Perhaps it's a change I was trying to make that I don't need to make, , or, or maybe I went too. And so I think where I'm landing is worry less about complaining and worry more about how long you're hanging onto the complaining, particularly about those, those external things.

So maybe I need to just like set a timer, like if I'm gonna complain, if somebody wants to know what's going on, okay, I'm, I'm gonna set the clock. You get, you know, eight minutes or something. I'm, I'm just going to blah, eight minutes it comes out and then that's it. I move on. I find the solutions [00:06:00] based on the clearer head, the subtle dust, whatever it is to feel.

Zach: Yeah, I, I don't see anything wrong with that., I mean, honestly at work, or even, even in my personal life, whenever somebody has a problem and they start talking about the problem, they are complaining to, you know, to some extent, right? And I sit there and just ask questions and talk people through. I don't even talk 'em through it.

I just ask questions and they end up talking themselves through it . So, I. There is research on vocalizing your thoughts and vocalizing the things that are going through your head, and it gives you this different interpretation of 'em. And I've seen so many people sit there going, Ugh, I'm so frustrated I can't figure this out.

I can't do it. I just, ugh. And then they start talking about it. And your brain fires in different directions, different paths, because you have to actually take what's in your head, translate it into words and pop it out, and it creates different solutions that [00:07:00] you never would've thought of. if You hadn't complained.

So there's a lot of value in complaining to figure out the solution, to vent it off of your chest, but don't dwell on it.

Jeremy: What's funny too is when you do turn the feelings or the, the frustration, whatever, when you do turn it into words and you share it with particularly somebody trained in, in this kind of stuff, they can hear you articulating your own limiting beliefs. They can hear you saying things that don't even really make sense.

You're using some weird analogy or some weird, colorful thing. I had, I had an experience with a therapist once where, uh, I was talking about how I, you know, I, I've, I've lived in darkness for so long that I struggle with being in the light. And she's like, what the fuck does that even mean? And I was

Zach: That's a Star Wars reference.

Jeremy: I know, right?

Yeah. , but she was right. The more we talked it through, the more we got to the heart of. Just, I, I was struggling to articulate my needs, right? Like that, that was really what was going on. But I had this big, grandiose illusion [00:08:00] about how I live my life, and she's like, that's bullshit. Let's, let's use real words like, what's really going on here?


Zach: I like your therapist.

Jeremy: yeah, it's, yeah, she, she's challenging. It's good. Uh, So, so, yeah, so I, I, I'm coming around on this. I do see the value and the other thing that's lighting up for me, and it's, this happens so often when we have these conversations, which I guess is proving the point even further.

How often do we talk about vulnerability and sharing what's going on with yourself so that other people can feel that connection and see that you're a real human being and have the same struggles that they do, and how it actually creates bonds and brings people closer together. I guess I'm just gonna go all in and all I'm gonna do from now on is complain.

That's, that's just it. I'm not gonna say anything other than what's wrong. I'm gonna cry constantly and just bitch about all of my problems.

Zach: again, let's, let's, let's not, let's not go all the way in one way or the other. I think. , just in reading Marcus Aurelius around that topic and, and what you've been [00:09:00] telling me, like, the one thing that pops into my head , , is the way that you and I were raised as men to stuff it down.

Oh, oh, it hurts. No, no, no, no. You don't talk about it hurting. Oh, your arm is bleeding. Whatever. Some dirt in it. I mean, literally in my house, a bandaid was tissues and electrical tape. That was a bandaid.

Jeremy: Christ.

Zach: That's all I hear when I hear that phrase and I'm just like there. Like I said, there's two parts to it.

There's so much value in the complaining. Once you've complained though, once you've unloaded, once you've let it, out there, you do have to go. Okay. I've gotten it off my chest, now I'm gonna step back and I'm not gonna let that bother me anymore cuz you don't stuff that down. You've done it a healthy way.

So now don't complain about that same thing again cuz then you're what? What's the definition of crazy?

Jeremy: Yeah, just doing the

Zach: Doing the same thing. Same thing over and over. Yeah. So don't continue to complain about it. Get it off your chest [00:10:00] or go find a solution, fix it. But yeah, definitely complain. I would, I. Dude, how often do we get on a call where we're like, okay, we gotta bust out a quick podcast here, and then an hour goes by and we haven't recorded

Jeremy: Right. We're just

Zach: and you're, and you're just like, wow, you got a lot going on, man.


Jeremy: I always regret not recording those and just posting those cuz that's as real as it gets.

Zach: I don't think anyone wants to

Jeremy: Nobody wants to hear it,

but yeah.

Zach: No. Well, I'm glad you're turning a corner. I, I mean, we talk about this all the time, about what are our beliefs, and I do the same thing too. Like I read a book and I'm like, oh, here's a thing. And like with health and wellness, right? Oh, here's a thing.

Well, I'm gonna go in 110% on this and I'm gonna go all the way, and no one will ever talk me outta the fact that this is healthy and good for me. When in reality it's like a 50 50 thing. Depends on the person, right? This is one of those things. It sounds [00:11:00] good. It makes you feel better if you are complaining a lot, right?

If you, if you wanna step back and not be that guy, but you know, in everything that we do, question, question it is this right for me, right? For some people complaining might be really good For some people . Complaining might actually drive them down into a bad place. I've seen people complain to the point where they get spun up and spun up, and spun up and spun up, and then bad things happen.

You know, take it, look at it for yourself. Question that belief. Why do I believe this? Is this right for me? Right? Should I be eating whole wheat bread or white bread? Should I complain or not complain? Or a little bit of both, right?

Jeremy: Yeah. It was interesting bringing it back to the conversation that sparked this conversation, the number of times where I was, , venting about things that felt like they were beyond my control, that they were external. And to have that mirror reflected back of, uh, no dummy that's on you, you're, [00:12:00] that's, that's your problem.

That's your reaction. That's your not taking responsibility. That's your not doing the thing that could solve it. and instead sitting there and feeling crappy about it and just letting it eat you alive and then telling me you're not gonna complain about it, that's moronic. Like, so I'm glad that you're now venting because now I can tell you it is your fault and you can do something about it.

So go do something.

Zach: Yeah, and that's the worst part too, when you are complaining about something and the other person's. You, you know that's your problem, right?

Jeremy: Right.

Zach: Yeah. Yeah. And then you're like, no, it's not. And then you start complaining about how they're wrong and, and all that. It's a vicious cycle. It really is.

Jeremy: That is.

Zach: But I always feel better after I've done a good bitch session.

Jeremy: People pay good money for it. So there it, it must have value because it does, we pay money to do it. So,

Zach: Yeah, so I, I mean, I never thought that I would say this, but I completely, I, I totally disagree with Marcus Aurelius.

Jeremy: Turns out perhaps he's wrong.

Zach: Clearly he's a bumbling idiot then in [00:13:00] everything. Right? Because we're just

Jeremy: That's it. I'm, I'm gonna burn every book I have that has anything to do with this name because he is wrong about this one thing.

Zach: I joke, but we all do that like, There's been a couple of people who I've followed where like one thing that they've said is off from what I believe, what I truly believe, and I wouldn't follow along with it, and then I discredited everything they said after that.

Jeremy: I

Zach: Like this, like black and white thinking is, is it has no place in, the growth that we're talking about, the growth that we want for ourselves, it really.

Jeremy: it's all about taking the pieces of the puzzle , that fit into what you're trying to do and making them fit., All right. Well, I could complain and complain and whine and uh, bitch and moan even more, but I'm not going to because you don't want to hear that in, I don't want to do it even though I'm trying to open myself up to more complaining.


Zach: you complained right before the.

Jeremy: That's true. I did get some of it off my chest before we got here, so there's that part of it. ,

But that is gonna do it for this episode of The Fit Mass. We'll talk more about this in our next newsletter, . [00:14:00] Which you can get by subscribing to it in the link in the show notes for this episode, and those are@thefitmess.com.

That's where we will be back next week with a brand new episode. Thanks for listening.

Zach: See you everyone.