For my final intervention, I wanted to retry something that I experimented with over the summer: not complaining. About anything. I attempted to do this for 21 days in July, but made the critical mistake of informing my friends and family of my new challenge. I was both baited into complaining by them and also policed whenever I made an observation that was interpreted as a complaint. So this time, I told no one and simply wanted to hold myself accountable. The first thing I had to do was define what a complaint is. I decided on “an unnecessary negative comment, question, or observation that provides no added value to my situation.” Unnecessary is the operative word here because the world has a lot of negativity in it and sometimes naming it is the first step in alleviating discomfort or suffering. Also not everything is shiny and fun all the time and at a certain point you have to be realistic.
So I started the week off knowing pretty well how it was going to feel, but now I was the only person I was answering to. I noticed a few things:
Firstly, I was reminded of the old adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This came in to play specifically with my roommates. I would walk out of my room and catch myself starting to say “I literally did all the dishes last night and now the sink is full,” but before the words could exit my mouth, I realized that this was not a necessary comment and could easily be replaced with “hey, can you please do your dishes this morning?” A kinder and more productive alternative.
The other, more interesting thing I noticed, was that I was catching the negative thoughts I was having in my head, and because I couldn’t vocalize them, it changed some of the negative thought patterns I have with myself. As I outwardly complained less, I inwardly complained less. As I inwardly complained less, I felt more gratitude for my situation and realized I didn’t have too much to complain about anyway
My good friend and pen pal Ben sent me a letter this week and we always close with a quote. Appropriately, the quote he included was “It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting.” This intervention is one that everyone should try and one that I will try to continue.