In 2006, Will Bowen, an author and motivational speaker, introduced a unique challenge to 250 individuals, urging them to break the destructive habit of complaining by undertaking a 21-day journey without voicing a single complaint. (The challenge is 21 days because that is the general amount of time it takes to make or break a habit). I can’t remember exactly when I read about him and his special challenge, but the impact was profound, stirring a deep awareness of my inclination towards grousing.
The pervasiveness of griping is undeniable. It's a habitual reflex for many of us, deeply ingrained and often fueled by a variety of reasons. Interestingly, complaining is not an isolated act but rather a contagious behavior. Travis Bradbury, Ph.D. explained that our inherently social nature causes our brains to unconsciously mimic the moods of those around us, particularly those with whom we spend substantial time. This process, known as neuronal mirroring, forms the basis of our ability to empathize.
Embracing the 21-day complaint-free challenge became a personal commitment for me. Armed with the purple complaint-free challenge wristband, I gave myself a pep talk while driving to work, determined to be mindful of my words. When I arrived on that gorgeous August morning, I stepped out of my vehicle, and promptly grumbled, “Man, is it hot out here!!” My mouth immediately dropped open, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. A swift switch of the wristband served as a tangible reminder – yes, I had complained again, not even lasting five minutes!
Recent readings have shed light on the detrimental impact of complaining, not only on mental but also physical health. Elevated blood pressure and increased cortisol levels, the stress hormone, are linked to this seemingly harmless habit.
The Bible, too, offers cautionary tales about the perils of complaining. Reflecting on the Old Testament chapters depicting the complaining Israelites, Numbers 11:1 recounts the displeasure of the LORD, and Philippians 2:14 advises, "Do all things without murmurings and disputings."
Expressing gratitude is the antidote to complaining. It's the flip-side habit, and practicing thankfulness becomes a reliable method to positively rewire our brains.
Here's a challenge for us. Can we refrain from complaining for 21 days? 10 days? 1 day? Even just 1 hour? Let's embark on this endeavor together and marvel how it benefits us mentally, physically, and spiritually!