Complaining isn't usually the most productive way to handle a bad situation and, in fact, can actually make matters worse. One study published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology found that complainers were less satisfied throughout the workday and saw their bad moods from previous annoyances carrying over into the next morning. Other studies reveal that while venting feels great in the moment, it can prove detrimental later. But as bad of a rap as complaining gets, there are some healthy and practical benefits it provides—if practiced correctly.
New York Magazine's Science of Us recently broke down four specific venting strategies happy people use to complain (and still feel good about it after). We've highlighted three of our favorites here for you to try today.
They sandwich the bad. The article proposes to consider the "complaint sandwich," coined by psychologist and researcher Guy Winch in his book The Squeaky Wheel. Essentially, if you're complaining to someone else, you sandwich the bad with a kind ear-opener (a kind opening line that will ease what's to come next), the complaint itself, and the digestive (which softens the blow).
They do it with purpose. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Social Psychology found that complaining doesn't have to be a mood killer, as long as you're deliberate about it. Even if you have no solution in mind, knowing your venting is purposely expressive instead of instrumental, makes it essentially instrumental in helping you feel good about getting something off your chest.
They don't dwell. In line with venting deliberately, your end game should be moving on. Robin Kowalski, a psychology professor at Clemson University and co-author of the study above, suggests two strategies to keep your venting from diving into dwelling territory: Do it in moderation, and pick your audience carefully. For happy complainers, the goal is to get it off your chest and let it go.
Next up, discover seven science-backed ways to become happier.