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How Complaining Wires Your Brain for Negativity

Synapses that fire together wire together.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Sean Batcheller

The power of positive thinking has fantastic, far-reaching benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, a positive attitude can increase your life span, improve your coping skills, and give you greater resistance to the common cold. Plus, it makes you much more fun to be around. So, if positive thinking is good for you, what about constant negativity and complaining? According to science, complaining rewires your brain for negativity.


Steven Parton, a computer scientist and philosopher who’s studied the relationship between complaining and brain structure, says the synapses in the brain that fire together ultimately wire together. “Whenever you have a thought, one synapse shoots a chemical across the cleft to another synapse, thus building a bridge over which an electric signal can cross, carrying along its charge the relevant information you’re thinking about,” Parton wrote on Curious Apes. “Every time this electrical charge is triggered, the synapses grow closer together in order to decrease the distance the electrical charge has to cross… The brain is rewiring its own circuitry, physically changing itself, to make it easier and more likely that the proper synapses will share the chemical link and thus spark together—in essence, making it easier for the thought to trigger.” So essentially, the more often you complain, the more negative connections are created in your brain.

The good news is that the same way we can wire our brains for negativity, we can rewire them for positivity. After studying how the brain creates synapses, Parton decided to rewire his mind for positivity by changing how he reacted to the world around him. “Every time a moment came my way and brought with it a chance for reactive thought, my two choices were simple, regardless of the flavor you put on them: Love or Fear; Acceptance or Regret; Drift or Desire; Optimism or Pessimism,” Parton writes. By learning to wire our minds for positivity, we can improve our thoughts—which will, in turn, change our lives for the better.

(H/T Curious Apes)

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