Science Says That Complaining Is Actually Good for You

But there's still a right and wrong way to do it

Actually, keep complaining.

In what may be the first good news of 2020, it turns out complaining is healthy. Kind of.

According to the New York Times, there’s a right and wrong way to complain, and done right, it can actually be good for you. As Robin Kowalski, a professor of psychology at Clemson University, put it, “Yes, it’s good to complain, yes, it’s bad to complain, and yes, there’s a right way to do it.”

The first step to mastering the art of healthy complaining is identifying which kind of complaining you’re engaging in. The experts break the behavior into three main categories — venting, problem solving and ruminating — and it turns out not all complaints are created equal. While venting and problem solving can be constructive, ruminating tends to be less productive, and can even lead to catastrophizing and depression.

“Complaining is, ideally, totally solutions focused,” said Tina Gilbertson, a psychotherapist and the author of Constructive Wallowing. “Acknowledging feelings is healthy, it’s good for you physiologically and it’s good for your emotional health.”

The key to constructive complaining that capitalizes on these potential is mindfulness, which means acknowledging what you’re doing, why, and the effect it’s having on you and others. “It’s crucial, if you’re venting, to know that you’re venting and to tell the person you’re venting,” said Gilbertson. Taking a measured, mindful and solution-driven approach to complaining can help not only blow off steam, but also build relationships and, done right, maybe even help you resolve whatever’s at the root of your gripe.

As Gilbertson noted, it’s not just healthy, but important to be able to say, “This sucks I’m unhappy with what’s going on.”

Sometimes things suck, and there’s nothing wrong with pointing it out. This year, point it out with purpose.

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