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9 Productive Things To Do Instead of Complaining

9 Productive Things To Do Instead of Complaining

Are you guilty of a little negativity from time to time?

Do you relish in gossip or take comfort in complaining?

They say our thoughts create our own reality, that our mind is more powerful than we could ever imagine. If this is the case, negative thoughts and complaining won’t get us far in life. Complaining about the actions of others, and the misfortune in our own life is futile. Why not do something more productive with your time instead of complaining?

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If you are in the habit of complaining and thinking negatively, it may be necessary to break the habit. The easiest way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a new positive habit. Here are a few suggestions of productive positive habits to replace your habit of complaining.

1. Practice gratitude.

The act of giving thanks has become a well respected means for creating a happier life. Scientists have found that the habit of gratitude can reduce the symptoms of depression, increase well being and make for an all around happier person. So start by creating a gratitude list: write down all the things you are grateful for and add to it daily. You will find that it is difficult to feel sad or sorry for yourself when you are feeling grateful.

2. Praise others.

Time to bring out the compliments. Just like the act of gratitude, making someone else happy by giving them praise and recognition will make you happier. Why not make someone else feel good and spread the joy around? Acknowledge all good deeds and recognize when someone has done a good job both in work and at home. Why not thank your husband or wife for the meal they prepared or for the good job they did cleaning the kitchen. We all love praise and recognition for our efforts.

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3. Focus on success.

The self fulfilling prophecy claims that our lives will turn out just as we imagine. If we believe we will be successful, we will be. If we think poverty is our future, it probably will be. This is the reason people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to remain part of a disadvantaged group. They are primed to stay in the same circumstances. If you want to create a successful future then stop complaining about your life and start focusing on success.

4. Let go.

Holding on to past regrets and hurts are of no benefit to our present life. Let go of things that are beyond your control and act on the things that you can control.

“Living in the past is living with regret, living in the future is living with anxiety, living in the present is living in peace.”
—Lao Tzu

5. Take responsibility.

Complainers are usually the people who play victim. Are you a victim of your circumstance or are you in control of your own destiny? Rather than complain about your life, why not take steps to change it? Your future life is in your control; it’s up to you to take action.

6. Take action.

Very often, the people who sit around complaining are the people who don’t take action. If you want to change your situation you have to take action. Start small; ten minutes a day can help you to make progress in working towards making your life happier and more successful.

7. Make a plan.

If you are not happy with the way things are and you have decided to take responsibility for changing it, you may welcome a plan to make things happen. It can be difficult to get started, so by writing everything down, you will have more clarity and focus. Use your calendar to schedule time and you will be in a much strong position from the start.

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8. Exercise.

Creating the habit of exercise is a great way to shift from negative to positive. Exercise is good for you in so many ways, and it also acts as a catalyst for change. If you can bring exercise into your day, you will see how everything in your life will change for the better.

9. Happiness.

And lastly, don’t forget to focus on happiness. Happiness is within your grasp and it starts with a decision. Decide to be happy now. As Lao Tzu also said, “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.” Don’t sit around waiting for your life to change; go out and change it. If something makes you unhappier, don’t sit around complaining—do something about it. Focus on all the good in your life and do the things that make you happy now. There are plenty of ways to be happier and more productive instead of complaining

Featured photo credit: A Howling Monkey by Bob Holt via flickr.com

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Ciara Conlon

Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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