It’s challenge time again. Last time, many of you took part in the 100-hour outdoor challenge. This time, it is a much shorter, yet possibly more difficult proposal. I challenge you to not complain about anything for 24 hours.
That’s right, just 24 hours. One full day. No complaints. Think you can do it?
What’s the point? Why bother doing this? Over here at Minimalism and Your Money, we are all about happiness. We want to maximize our happiness by minimizing the things that get in the way. Oftentimes, those come in the form of objects, but it also applies to our mindset and our ways of going about our lives.
Less technology, less negativity, less regrets, less worrying about the future and less clutter. Less of all of these will make us happier. So will less complaining.
Science has shown time and time again that our happiness is reduced by complaining. Not only that, but others are also negatively affected by listening to your complaining, thus reducing their happiness. It’s like a disease passing from one person to the next.
The No Complaints Challenge
Here’s how it works:
From the moment you read this, aim to spend the next 24 hours complaint-free.
If you catch yourself complaining, it’s okay. In fact, I would imagine that most people will mess up a few times. It’s actually really, really hard to not complain, especially when others around you might be doing it. If you do complain, just restart the 24-hour clock and try again.
My No Complaints Challenge Results
Before posting this, I tried the no complaints challenge. Let me tell you, it’s not easy.
What I Learned
In the end, the no complaints challenge really did help me to feel happier. I noticed that I was more upbeat and positive, but I also realized how easy it was for me to slip back into my old, complaining ways. This challenge took effort. I had to consciously and mindfully work to avoid complaining. One know-it-all co-worker, the long line at the grocery store, and my lack of sleep the previous night were all ripe for a complaint, so it took some serious focus and willpower to hold off.
Instead, I tried to swing it over to the positive. My co-worker is probably projecting this overconfidence as a way to mask the inadequacies he is probably feeling in his life. The long line at the grocery store gave me a moment to slow down and think about the things for which I’m grateful. And my lack of sleep was my own fault — it was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and the Bruins were playing. We won’t COMPLAIN about the result (although I’d really like to)!
In the end, it took me a full week to finally make it through the day without a single complaint. As I said earlier, this wasn’t an easy challenge.
Is Complaining Always Bad?
No, in fact, some research has shown that complaining, when done the right way and for the right reasons, can actually be beneficial. Letting out your frustrations can be a very therapeutic experience.
Complaining, when done with a purpose, can have very positive outcomes.
If you feel like you are underappreciated at work, should you complain? Possibly.
When you receive terrible customer service from a company, should you complain? Probably.
If you are given the wrong meal at a restaurant should you complain? Definitely.
Also, complaining can sometimes simply be a way to relieve stress.
I will never forget an interaction I had with a student during one of my first years of teaching. I was handing back papers and when I slid his paper across the desk, he snapped, saying, “What’s your problem?” He then had a few other choice words and stormed out of the classroom. I, along with the whole class was dumbfounded. Here was a student that I had had a very good relationship with until that point. That afternoon, he stopped by to apologize and explained that his parents were going through a divorce, and he and his sister were stuck in the middle of it.
He had so much pent-up anger and frustration that he took it out with his complaint toward me. I realized that his complaints and frustrations were his way of releasing some of that built-up stress.
So what have I learned through all of this?
First of all, I still complain. I think it’s pretty natural for us to complain and I do see some positives with it. However, since completing this challenge, I have really tried to cut down on the complaining that I do. Yes, there are times when we are frustrated, or times when we really have been wronged and should be complaining. But, many other times, we complain simply out of habit.
I’m aiming to become more and more mindful of my complaining and avoid it when possible. I try to ask myself these three questions:
- Is this really something that I am very upset about?
- Will complaining serve any purpose in this situation?
- Is my complaining going to affect others in a negative way?
For me, it really all boils down to trying to be happier. It’s the whole reason I started this blog and embraced minimalism in the first place. And I think happiness goes hand in hand with positivity. The more positive we are, the happier we are. Since complaining seems to spread negativity like it’s the flu, I propose attempting to stay more positive and looking on the bright side of things.
Be A Marigold, Not a Walnut Tree
This all reminds me of a story I came across a few years back. The story was given to us during a professional development activity at our school. The idea is that marigolds are positive and healthy for those around them while walnut trees are toxic. As a teacher, or in any field, it’s important that we try to be the marigolds as much as possible and surround ourselves with other marigolds, and not the walnut trees. We will be happier because of it. So, I encourage you to be a marigold!
I’d love to hear how the 24-hour challenge went for you. Did it take you a whole week to complete like it did for me?