Complaining is the national pastime in Singapore. We complain about the weather. Too hot. The cost of living. Too high. The education system. Too stressful. The public transport. Too crowded. The only thing we do not complain about is the food (after all, who complains about Michelin starred chicken rice?)  

However, sometimes we complain so much that we go about life with a frown which no amount of gracious deeds, kind gestures and good food can lift. This is bad for both your own health and those of the people around you. Research has shown that when we complain, our brains produce stress hormones which break down neural connections in areas used for problem solving and other cognitive functions. Additionally, by dwelling on the negative side of things, our dissatisfaction with life also increases. This does not just stop here; misery spreads. By complaining, you also make people around you more negative and more prone to stress related problems.  

If you are convinced about the need to cut back on this national pastime of ours, then here are a few tips to aid you along. 

1. Observation versus complaint

There is nothing wrong with stating an observation. If you say “It is hot outside”. That is just the truth. But when you are frowning and fanning yourself impatiently, all the while seething “Why is Singapore so hot? I am sweating so much. I hate this place!”, you are most likely complaining. Remember, it is not what you say but how you say it that turns an observation into a complaint. 

2. Turn your dissatisfaction into action

Do not just sit around moping, whining and seething. God did not just give you 2 eyes, 2 ears and a mouth. God gave you a pair of hands too. And if something is bothering you, think about what you can do to improve the situation. After that, actively take charge of your life. 

Recently, there was a bird which will start cawing at 6am and brusquely wake me from my sleep. The first few days, I cursed that bird in my dreams after moving to another room to continue sleeping. But eventually, I wrote in to the town council (nicely) to reflect about the bird nuisance. As of now, they have already tracked that bird down to a particular tree and I believe that very soon, the annoying bird will be bundled to the zoo (muahaha). 

3. See the positive side of things

Every cloud has a silver lining. Every half empty cup is half full. When you are fixated on how badly things are going for you, force yourself to see the brighter side of things by using the “but-positive” method. 

“The train may be crowded, but at least it did not break down.” (phew)

“School may be boring, but at least I have friends who are all in this together.”

“My parents may be naggy, but at least they give me pocket money…” Oh come on, surely your parents deserve more credit than this? What about all the times they stood by you when you were sick, sad or smelly? What about the love, attention and time lavished on you? Surely you can find more than just one positive about them?

To quote Tom Wilson, you can complain because roses have thorns. Or you can rejoice because thorns have roses. 

4. Separate yourself from chronic complainers

If there is one thing more harmful than second hand smoke, it is second hand complaining. At least when it comes to your emotional health. Friends who are negative will cause you to become negative too, without you even realising it. Help your friends to become more positive by getting them to see the better side of things. If this is easier said than done, then it is time to keep some distance between friends who are overall nice people, but who just complain too much. 

Remember, like attracts like. Think positive, and positive things will happen to you.