referenced article link: http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/complaining-rewires-your-brain-for-negativity-science-says.html
Written by Dr. Mark
No one really enjoys hearing someone else complain, but most of us will find ourselves doing it from time to time, or quite frequently. I think most of us would agree its a bad habit to fall into and something we really shouldn’t do. But are there any reasons to avoid this behavior besides it making us unpleasant to be around?
“Synapses that fire together wire together.”
This is one of the first lessons neuroscience students learn, according to Parton. “Throughout your brain there is a collection of synapses separated by empty space called the synaptic cleft. Whenever you have a thought, one synapse shoots a chemical across the cleft to another synapse, thus building a bridge over which an electric signal can cross, carrying along its charge the relevant information you’re thinking about,” Parton explains.
“Here’s the kicker,” he continues. “Every time this electrical charge is triggered, the synapses grow closer together in order to decrease the distance the electrical charge has to cross…. The brain is rewiring its own circuitry, physically changing itself, to make it easier and more likely that the proper synapses will share the chemical link and thus spark together–in essence, making it easier for the thought to trigger.”
So let’s boil that down–having a thought makes it easier for you to have that thought again. That’s not good news for the perpetually gloomy (though happily, it seems gratitude, can work the opposite way, building up your positivity muscles). It gets worse, too. Not only do repeated negative thoughts make it easier to think yet more negative thoughts, they also make it more likely that negative thoughts will occur to you just randomly walking down the street. (Another way to put this is that being consistently negative starts to push your personality towards the negative).
Parton explains how these closer synapses result in a generally more pessimistic outlook: “Through repetition of thought, you’ve brought the pair of synapses that represent your [negative] proclivities closer and closer together, and when the moment arises for you to form a thought…the thought that wins is the one that has less distance to travel, the one that will create a bridge between synapses fastest.” Gloom soon outraces positivity.
Along with your own thoughts creating a more negative mindset, others can have this effect on you as well. When someone else expresses an emotion we attempt to experience that emotion with them, this is essentially empathy. So if we surround ourselves with negativity it will “rub off” on us in the same way that our own negative thoughts can perpetuate more negativity. We can see how being exposed to complaining can bread more, but does it actually harm us, besides stealing our joy.
The harmful effects are from stress! Stress is one of the 3 top risk factors for heart disease, which is the number 1 disease killer in our country. Stress is a bid deal, and should be something you avoid whenever possible.
The culprit is the stress hormone cortisol. When you’re negative, you release it, and elevated levels of the stuff, “interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease…. The list goes on and on,” says Parton.
There are plenty of things that can cause us stress, but really how much it causes is really up to us with how we react to it. With all those stressors that are out of our control, we should really strive to avoid those we have control over, such as our complaining. So, not only will it make you more pleasant to be around, it can help improve your health to. Don’t worry and be happy!
- Dr. Mark