How to complain (and be happy)

The US and the UK share a lot of things - language, food and so on. One thing we don't seem to share is culture - or rather, a certain aspect of culture.

I have never spent significant periods of time in the US, so my only exposure to American culture is through their media: publications, TV, movies and American people posting on social media. As such I acknowledge that I have a very limited and fragmented view of US culture.

One thing does strike me: American people are much more focused on positivity in the sense of being generally upbeat and smiley. In fact, Americans pioneered the new thought movement (a precursor to the belief that you can influence the world with your thoughts) and a lot of the self-help genre as we know it today.

In particular, the US is focused on being positive by avoiding anything or anyone deemed "negative". As in "no negative thoughts allowed", "complaining is bad for you", and so on. Thankfully, it seems to be getting better; I don't think a movie like Inside Out could have been made five years ago, for example.

Part of my disregard for this particular attitude to happiness is based on my own personal experiences; I have issues with bottling up negative emotions. Turns out that when your brain is insisting something is wrong, ignoring it is a bad idea. Instead, what's worked for me (and many other people) is being able to express those emotions in an environment which acknowledges their existence. Part of my disregard for this particular attitude is that I live in the UK and was brought up differently; here complaining isn't something to be pathologised, it's practically a national sport.

I actually think complaining, when done in moderation, can be good for you. Obviously part of this comes from me being brought up in a culture where complaining is pretty prevalent, but part of this also comes from me thinking there's something of a skill to complaining.

People who aren't used to complaining will probably be confused by this, but there is a skill.

Complaining is a social thing; you complain to someone else. Having someone else to complain to is why it's important and why you don't get the same effect from writing in your diary. As such, you try and make your complaint interesting to your listeners. You play on how weird or egregious or absurd this situation is - and sometimes, it makes you laugh because it's so weird. And you get to talk about the things upsetting you in a supportive environment to boot!

Complaining and happiness aren't mutually exclusive. Blowing off steam is good for you - and it fosters a sense of humour too.