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I am so incredibly excited about sharing today’s post! I’ve been wanting to start a “complaint jar” for a while, but I couldn’t quite think of how to make it work out. Instead of leaving comments and complaints, you have to deposit something every time you make a complaint. I really couldn’t get the mechanics of it figured out! While browsing the web the other night, I came across an amazing book called Complaint Free World. The author, Will Bowen, challenges people to go 21 days without complaining and has a system using a bracelet where you swap the bracelet from wrist to wrist every single time you make a verbal complaint or criticism. My husband and I started with this idea, then played around with it to make ourselves a “game” to play as a family. I hope you decide to join us in making a DIY complaint/gratitude jar and participate in the Complaint Free Week Challenge!
Why should you care about how much you complain? Research has repeatedly shown that complaining is bad for you. Because of how the brain works, every time you complain, it makes complaining and negative thoughts that much more likely in the future. Additionally, research from Stanford University demonstrated that complaining damages the hippocampus, the part of the brain that deals with problem solving and intelligent thought. Complaining also causes your body to release cortisol, which is incredibly damaging in the long run. (You can read more about these studies here.)
The good new is that it works the other way, too – the brain’s amazing neuroplasticity means that you can retrain your brain to be positive and grateful. Just like complaining and negativity can become your default setting, you can make positivity your default setting. It takes work to reverse engrained patterns of thought and behavior, but it is totally possible! Making that change is what this Complaint Free Week Challenge is all about.
To participate in the Complaint Free Week Challenge with us:
You can absolutely go it alone, but if you’d like to receive extra inspiration, please enroll in the Complaint Free Week Challenge via email! You can sign up with this box below this paragraph, or with the box at the very bottom of the post (right above the comment section). Your welcome email will have three PDFs – one with a handy cheat sheet of the game variants, another with tips for starting your day with gratitude, and a third with advice on how to combat judgmental thoughts. There is no other chain of emails associated with signing up – just these three PDFs and my site newsletter (if I can ever remember to send one again!).
To make your own complaint/gratitude jar, you will need:
- An empty jar! We upcycled a glass yogurt jar.
- Trim, ribbons, etc. I used what I had on hand, which was more of the pompom trim from this boho market basket tutorial.
- Hot glue/hot glue gun.
- Colored pieces of paper or cardstock.
- Scissors or a paper trimmer.
- Other decorations and embellishments, optional (For example, you could use glass paint, oil-based markers, stickers, decals, buttons, flowers, etc.)
Decorate your jar! This isn’t mandatory, but it’s fun! I used high-temp hot glue to attach pompom trim around the jar, then I popped a couple of fold over elastic hair ties around the neck and added some appropriate-feeling charms. I originally thought I wanted to tie ribbons around the jar, but the elastic just ended up feeling right!
Use a paper trimmed to cut up your “complaints” and “gratitudes” papers. I cut mine into 2″ squares, but you may want to experiment with different sizes to see what works for you and your jar.
So let’s get to the game mechanics! We created two “levels” for the Complaint Free Week Challenge:
Every time you complain, criticize, or gossip, drop a “complaint” colored piece of paper in the jar.
Every time you sincerely thank someone else or express gratitude, place a “gratitude” colored piece of paper in the jar. To keep it meaningful, we’re trying to “catch” each other being thankful and add pieces for the other person. This helps ensure we’re speaking our thanks and gratitudes where others can hear them to help raise our vibration, as it were, as a family. If you’re playing alone, you may want to write your gratitudes down on paper and then slip them into the jar.
At the end of the week, take out all the pieces of paper. Pair them off so that each “gratitude” cancels a complaint. See which color has leftovers at the end. Work until you can have more gratitudes for the week than complaints!
Once you get the hang of complaining less, try to go an entire week without complaining, criticizing, being sarcastic, or gossiping. See how long it takes you to end up with a gratitudes only jar for the week!
You may want to sit down and really clarify with other “players” what, exactly, constitutes a complaint. We decided that the tone of voice and intent matters a lot and we don’t want to dramatically hinder communication. For example, you could complain about being sore from a workout. “Ugh, I’m so sore!” On the other hand, “That was a good workout yesterday – I can really feel it!” could be just fine to say. Sometimes there are important, but unpleasant, facts that need communicating. For example, yesterday, our first day with the jar, my mom’s new cat peed on some of our things. Clearly we needed to talk about this problem, but we kept our communication about the facts and what needed to happen next instead of griping about the situation or the cat.
Tips for turning complaints around:
Any time you’re about to complain, stop yourself and ask “What am I trying to achieve?” If you don’t have an actual purpose, then chances are really good you’re just complaining for the sake of it and should keep your comment to yourself!
When you catch yourself complaining, try to add a “but…” and something that you’re grateful for, or just skip the complaint all together and only say your gratitude. For example, instead of complaining that you’re bored at work, you could stop yourself and be grateful that you have a job. Instead of griping about traffic, you could be thankful that you have a car. (Only about 9% of the world’s population owns a car, so it’s a pretty legitimate thing to be grateful for!) I’ve used this technique a lot lately in the middle of the night. Our baby girl has been teething for weeks, plus she’s in a Wonder Week (leap 7). This has lead to more wake ups, shorter naps, and a clingy/crabby baby. In the middle of the night, I try to be consciously grateful for my healthy baby, that my husband is home with us, that I make plenty of milk for her, etc.
Try to rephrase negative statements in a positive or neutral way. For example, if you check Google Maps and see there’s a lot of traffic, refrain from saying “There’s really bad traffic today, it’s going to take forever to get there.” Instead, try to say something think “It looks like there’s more traffic than usual today so we might need to leave a few minutes earlier.” Remember that what you focus on grows. Focus on ‘bad’ things and you will receive more of them. Focus on ‘good’ things and you’ll receive more of them.
I created this phone wallpaper to help myself out. I hope that it offers you encouragement, too! Just right click and save to download the image. =)
Each week until we meet our goal, I’ll post an overview of how our week went and a new inspirational wallpaper! If you ever find yourself struggling, you might also want to check out this yoga practice for gratitude and an open heart:
Alright, who is ready to change their lives for the better and challenge themselves to live complaint free!?