The Brain Drain: Can Complaining and Gratitude Reshape Brain Physiology?

Key Takeaways

  • Constant complaining can reduce the size of the hippocampus, affecting emotions, memory, and intelligent thought.
  • Habitual complaining rewires the brain, making future complaints more likely and reinforcing negative behavior.
  • Listening to complaints can also shrink the listener’s hippocampus, highlighting the importance of surrounding yourself with positive influences.
  • Practicing gratitude may potentially rewire the brain positively, counteracting the negative effects of complaining.

Complaining Never Helps!

Does complaining lower your IQ? Maybe, maybe not, but research suggests that those who constantly complain may see a reduction in the size of their hippocampus — the part of the brain that is thought to be crucial for problem solving and intelligent thought.

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Complaining and the Hippocampus

As mentioned, the focal point of this research is the effect of complaining on the brain, particularly the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a crucial region of the brain responsible for emotions, memory, and the autonomic nervous system. Studies indicate that complaining could lead to the reduction in the size of the hippocampus, which ultimately affects its functioning. But this begs the question: does being grateful increase the hippocampus’s size?

Habits tend to become permanent personality traits, and this is no less true of complaining. Habitual complaining can become a self-perpetuating, self-sabotaging cycle. Similar to any habit, repeated complaining rewires your brain, making future complaining more likely. It’s like the brain is adapting to negativity, making it easier for complaints to arise spontaneously.

The Brain Drain

What’s more interesting is that the brain-shrinking effect doesn’t appear to stop at the one doing the complaining. The people simply listening to the complaints will experience similar changes to the brain, according to the research. Remember: you are the company you keep. It’s a good reminder to be selective about the people we surround ourselves with.

The Vicious Cycle

The process is simple: As neurons fire together, they wire together. This means that the more you engage in a particular behavior, the more your brain strengthens the neural pathways associated with it.

Over time, complaining becomes a personality train, the hippocampus will continue to shrink, impacting cognitive abilities, particularly problem-solving and critical thinking.

Attitude of Gratitude

Given the potential detrimental effects of complaining on the brain, it’s natural to wonder if there’s even a way to counteract the negative momentum. This is where gratitude comes into play. The question arises: Could gratitude rewire the brain in a positive direction, offering a contrasting path to negativity? It seems like a plausibility; if complaining affects the brain negatively, then its opposite — gratitude — should likewise have the opposite effect. More research may be needed on this subject matter.

Picture of Jeff Sekinger

Jeff Sekinger

Founder & CEO, Nurp LLC

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