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What Are We Really Complaining About?

The 15th January this week was Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year. Actually, it’s not the case at all – Blue Monday was a PR stunt made up to sell holidays and has no real bearing to mental wellbeing at any particular time of year. In fact, to suggest that there is only one day on which you might feel ‘blue’ undermines the reality of facing mental health challenges, which can happen at any time and is something we should be thinking about every day.


However, it’s still not surprising that, at this time of year, we might feel more downbeat about things: we’re all back into the routine of work and school after a Christmassy break, credit bills for December are arriving, and the weather is cold and dark. Quite often there’s a lot of germs going round too, and we’ve probably already given up on our resolutions.


It turns out that British people have quite a long list of things to complain about[1], with bad customer service, people pushing into queues, cold weather, poor Wi-Fi connection, and waiting for a delivery to arrive being the things that sit high on the list.


Most of these things, while undoubtedly inconvenient or annoying, are what we would probably class ‘first world problems’. They are trivial things that don’t really cause severe consequences, and we are aware that there are others who face far greater and more serious problems – and complain about it less too. Because most of us are used to a life full of conveniences and luxuries that make everyday living easier, we can forget that, when these things don’t work as they should, it’s really not the end of the world – even if that’s how it feels!


What we found interesting about the list of things we complain about is that most of them link back in some way to the fundamental aspects of life:


  • Being on the receiving end of queue-jumpers, lateness, cold calling or other people being rude or inconsiderate makes us feel like we’re not valued or respected = social

  • Feeling overworked and putting up with annoying colleagues = work

  • Being too hot, too cold or being bothered by graffiti and litter = environment

  • Feeling under the weather, not being able to make a doctor’s appointment or not sticking to a diet and exercise regime = physical

  • Not being recognised for our efforts at work, or always putting off learning to play that musical instrument we keep saying we’ll do = personal development

  • Being irritated by high prices or hidden charges, or missing out on a bargain = financial

  • Feeling like there’s not enough time in the day speaks to a potential imbalance in the way we live our lives – maybe we’re not making enough time for anything outside of the bare essentials = spirituality

  • Not getting a seat on the bus, getting caught in the rain or having to deal with malfunctioning technology can make us feel generally frustrated and irritated with life = mental


Perhaps that’s why we spend so much time complaining about them – though trivial on the surface, they may actually be speaking to a deep-seated feeling that things aren’t quite right where it matters.


As it happens, many of the things we complain about are out of our control, so we have very little influence over whether they happen or not. We can, however, affect the impact they have on us.


If you are affected by the lack of respect that results from rude behaviour, it can help to surround yourself as much as possible with kind, caring people who have your best interests at heart. If you feel over-worked and stressed, it might help to try and reduce the time you spend in those situations. And if that’s not possible, perhaps you can carve a few minutes a day to be more mindful and find small ways to relax – it might not be for long, but it all adds up.


All it takes is a little time for reflection and self-awareness to see if there are areas where we can limit the impact of these daily annoyances, and instead identify where we can make improvements or changes that can bolster us and help us feel more resilient and ready to face whatever the world can throw at us. Blue Monday might not feel so blue, after all.


Photo by Nik on Unsplash

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