Sometimes, you can’t help yourself — those dirty dishes have piled up in your sink, or that annoying coworker has forgotten to do his part of the meeting prep again. Finally, you relent, and give in to a good complaining session.
Part of your annoyance may be due to something called the “negativity bias,” happiness expert Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times bestseller "The Happiness Project," told TODAY.
“We have a natural tendency to drift downward and focus on negative interactions, or petty grudges, or inconveniences, because they come to our attention more than positive things,” she said, “which is why we need to intervene and redirect our attention.”
One crucial tip? Try using gratitude to drive out your frustration, Rubin said. If you find yourself complaining about someone, try to find reasons to feel grateful to that person.
For instance, a man whose boss keeps giving him last-minute assignments could, instead of complaining, try to feel grateful for his boss’s faith in his abilities, or for a recent time when that boss gave him the chance to deliver an amazing presentation, Rubin said.
“If you’re thinking about what someone has done for you, then you feel differently about the things that you would be complaining about,” Rubin explained.
Of course, the trick won’t work in all situations — sometimes, the complaint isn’t as minor as, for example, a co-worker talking too loudly on the phone. In those cases, you’ll want to identify the precise problem, and think about whether it’s best to ignore the cause of your complaint, or intervene and figure out a solution.
For instance, Rubin said, if you’re frustrated that everyone always seems to be late to a staff meeting, perhaps the time of the meeting should be changed.
“It’s better to change circumstances and not try to reform people’s inner natures,” Rubin explained.
But for minor gripes, try gratitude, which Rubin said is a great way to change your emotions about a situation.