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Complaining Can Physically Change Your Brain And Make You Depressed Or Anxious, According To Researchers


The brain is the most complicated and incredible part of our body, yet you could easily shape a brain, just like you would shape a play-doh. It all depends on us. It seems that thoughts not only change our behavior and reaction towards things but also modify the shape of our brain.

Thanks to the fast development of neuroscience and brain-imagining, we can now proudly say that our brains are indeed capable of re-engineering, and we’re the main designers responsible for its shape-shifting.

Neuroplasticity is the term that describes the ability of the brain to change throughout an individual’s life, which is really fascinating.

Beyond all the wonderful reasons, neuroplasticity also has the power to increase our intelligence, make us learn numerous, fresh, life-changing skills, and help us recover from different types of brain-damage by unlearning harmful behavior, beliefs or habits.


It is important to understand that negative habits change our brains for worse. Positive and more constructive habits change it for better. It all depends on us which side we choose to stay on.

The pioneer of neuroplasticity and neuropsychology, Donald Hebb, once said: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”

Additionally, Dr. Michael Merzenich, widely recognized as world’s most renowned neuroscientist, influenced by Hebb’s work, proved the relationship between our thoughts (“the neurons that fire”) and the structural modifications of the brain (the consequence of “the neurons that fire”).

One of his most significant discoveries was the fact that our experiences, behaviors, thinking, habits, thought patterns and ways of reacting to the world are inseparable from how our brain wires itself.

Therefore, if we choose to stick to the negative habits, neuroplasticity can become more of a problem than a solution.

According to Alex Korb, Ph.D., and author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time:

“In depression, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the brain. It’s simply that the particular tuning of neural circuits creates the tendency toward a pattern of depression. It has to do with the way the brain deals with stress, planning, habits, decision making and a dozen other things — the dynamic interaction of all those circuits. And once a pattern starts to form, it causes dozens of tiny changes throughout the brain that create a downward spiral.”

But, how does complaining changes our brain?

We all know a person who has the habit of constantly rambling about something. The one who complains a lot. Even if it is something extremely trivial, like why the waiter didn’t offer them a glass of water.

They usually fall into these three categories:

Attention-seeking Complainers: Desperately begging for attention through constant complaining about how they’ve got it worse than everyone else.

Chronic Complainers: People who live in a constant state of complaint. Psychologists define this type of behavior as rumination repetitively going over a thought or a problem without completion.” 

Low-E.Q. Complainers: The ones who lack a solid E.Q. – emotional intelligence. They will never be interested in your thoughts, perspectives or feelings. You are just a sounding board for them.

On many occasions, I have tried to understand their need for whining and criticizing even when there wasn’t something wrong, but as far as I got was that they are just negative people who would never be satisfied with anyone or anything.

However, it seems that the truth goes a bit deeper. People who tend to complain a lot, have rewired their brain in with a constant practice.

 It is a fact that our brains love efficiency – the work we do shouldn’t be harder than it has to.

That is why, when you frequently repeat a certain behavior, for example complaining, your neurons branch out to others in order to ease the flow of information. And this pattern that keeps going on and on inside our heads is eventually making our brain addicted to this kind of behavior.

The neurons grow closer together and the connections become well-established. And so, complaining becomes a part of our every day “miserable” lives.

And if that wasn’t enough for you, here’s another kicker: According to a Research from Stanford University complaining shrinks the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for problem-solving. Sad, huh?

Is it our brain’s fault?

Sadly, the answer is yes.

You might think that negative people enjoy feeling this way, but they actually don’t. The thing is, our brains can be easily accustomed to harmful behavior and negativity. All we have to do to change our brain structure is to allow this type of thinking to influence our brain for an extended period.

In no time will be suffocated by the dark veil of negativity and self-doubt.

Our brains have a tendency to focus on the negative circumstances more than the positive. That is something scientists refer to as negativity bias.

Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuroscientist, and author of Buddha’s Brain explains negativity bias:

“Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intensive positive ones. They are also perceived more easily and quickly.”

Considering that repetition is the mother of all learning, whenever we focus our brains on complaining, we’re firing and re-firing neurons responsible for the negativity bias.

In other words, we design our dark and negative point of view.

And sometimes without even being aware of it.

Image: Daniele Oberti

Stephanie Reeds


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