Effects of complaining versus gratitude on brain health
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the brain compared to other organs in the body is how readily it changes and evolves based on how we treat it. For instance, research shows that even how we think and see the world — whether we complain frequently or express gratitude regularly — can be the difference between accelerated brain degeneration or enhanced brain function.
Understandably, when you’re stuck in a depressed state it can seem impossible not to complain when you everything about life seems miserable. Functional neurology can help steer you to a healthier metabolic environment for your brain and rehabilitate areas of brain under activity or over activity so that you’re better able to practice healthy brain habits.
The effect of chronic complaining on the brain
Researchers have divided complainers into several categories: chronic complainers, attention seekers, and complainers who are oblivious to those around them.
Chronic complaining results from a brain mechanism called negative plasticity.
Plasticity is a term used in neurology to explain how we learn new things via communication between neurons. When you learn something new, such as a language, new pathways of communication begin developing in the brain.
The more you practice, the more efficient those pathways of communication become so that the new skill eventually becomes automatic. This conserves energy in the brain.
Unfortunately, plasticity can be negative too, making you more efficient at something that is harmful to your health. Examples include bad habits, addictions, stress, PTSD, and chronic complaining.
In other words, the more you complain, the more efficient your brain becomes at so that it becomes automatic.
As a result, you start to see life through a bleak lens and this will affect your behaviors and belief systems for the worse.
What’s worse, chronic complaining can raise your risk of dementia by releasing excess cortisol, a stress hormone, that more rapidly degenerates areas of the brain related to learning and memory.
Being positive takes more effort
Why does complaining and negativity come so easily? In what serves as a survival trait, our brains and bodies respond more actively and readily to negativity than positivity. This phenomenon is called negativity bias.
In studying negativity bias in couples, researchers found that partners in successful marriages naturally employed a five-to-one ratio of positivity to negativity in their interactions with one another.
In other words, it takes a lot more effort in a positive direction to prevent a slide into negative plasticity and the health fallouts from chronic complaining.
Some complaining is healthy and normal
This isn’t to say you should never complain or express negative emotions. Repression also raises stress levels and sabotages health.
Researchers have found the key is to stay mindful about your negative situations. Accepting the negative situation and feelings and consciously choosing to respond within a positive framework takes more work but will net more benefits.
Practice gratitude to positively rewire your brain
The research on the positive benefits of gratitude on the brain and body are extremely encouraging. But like all good things in life, they take work on your part.
One of the most reliable paths to positivity is gratitude. You can develop a more positive outlook by thinking of or writing down things in your life for which you are grateful.
A grateful attitude has been linked to less anxiety and depression, sounder sleep, kinder behavior, and overall better health. One study showed participants who wrote down five things for which they were grateful only once a week were happier, more optimistic, reported fewer physical problems, and exercised more compared to the control group. Similar results were reported in polio survivors who kept a gratitude journal.
Using functional neurology to help you get unstuck
When in the throes of depression, practicing positivity or gratitude can seem like a tall order. Sometimes, metabolic or neurological forces conspire against your desire to feel and function better, and this is where functional neurology can help.
You may have an inflammatory disorder or gut bacterial imbalance that is sabotaging your brain health. Likewise, food or chemical sensitivities, an undiagnosed or unmanaged autoimmune condition, hormonal deficiency, or chronic infection could be weighing you down. An area of your brain may be under firing or over firing, creating neurological disharmony that promotes depression and negativity. You may be struggling with PTSD, a brain injury, or some other brain disorder that is hindering your chances at a good mood.
Depression, constant complaining, and chronic negativity are red flags that something deeper needs to be addressed. Managing your brain health through functional neurology strategies can help provide a sound platform from which to employ positivity and gratitude practices that will unwind the negative plasticity and build positive plasticity for a healthier and happier you. Ask my office for more advice. You can schedule an appointment by calling 317-848-6000 or contact Dr. Ralston directly at email@example.com.