How Complaining Can Actually Make You Happier

Sometimes, it just feels good to whine. Ugh, how is it only Monday? I wish it were Friday already. We all do it.

If we do it too much, though, people stop listening. But, according to a recent study, there's a right and a wrong way to do it — and if you do it right, people will pay attention, and that's actually good for your psychological health.

"Complaining allows us to achieve desired outcomes such as sympathy and attention," Robin Kowalski, co-author of the study, told The Atlantic. "The truth is, everybody does it."

For the study, published in the Journal of Social Psychology, Kowalski and her colleagues examined relationships between mindfulness, happiness, and expressions of annoyance. To do this, they surveyed 410 male and female college students about the pet peeves they have with a current or past partner, happiness, positive and negative affect, depression, mindfulness, relationship satisfaction, and overall life satisfaction.

They found that those who complained with the goal of achieving a specific result — therefore acting more mindfully — tended to be happier than those who just did it for the sake of complaining.

Rather unsurprisingly, there is a positive relationship between happiness and mindfulness. Kowalski suggests mindful people may be better at articulating their complaints and choosing the optimal time to complain. In contrast, those who are less mindful may complain more often, but to lesser effect.

The most effective type of complaining, she said, is when the complainer employs facts and logic, knows exactly what would remedy the situation, and understands who has the power to help.

But you don't necessarily need to get what you want in order to benefit from complaining. Even if you don't get results, it can still be cathartic to get things off your chest.

"So much of happiness is intentional," Kowalski said. "We're not born happy, but we can actively engage in activities that make us feel good."

(h/t The Atlantic)

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