Jason Rogers is an Olympic Medalist, LA-based writer, and the creator of The Mandate Letter, a popular newsletter about modern masculinity.Continue reading
Complaining Negatively Rewires Your Brain (But Gratitude Can Bring You Back)
Did you know most people complain once per minute in conversation? That’s because negativity is as common as the cold, but not everyone lets complaining control the conversation.
We get it — there’s plenty to be upset about. Life is hard, but complaining only makes it worse at a certain point (very quickly). And while venting frustration may feel good at first, neurons in the brain grow closer together each time you do it, building a bridge that makes it a little easier to cross over to complaining. It can get to the point you may not realize you’re doing it, similar to the constant dopamine drip you’ve grown accustomed to getting when you receive likes on social media or you hear the sound of an incoming text. It just becomes part of your daily habit.
We know that negative fortune-telling is bad for our inner dialogue, but complaining not only rewires your brain, which can potentially lead to brain damage, it also depletes your cortisol levels — the hormone that sends you into fight or flight mode– and when your body is stressed, it redirects energy, oxygen and blood away from other systems so it can fight where it’s needed, kind of like when you’re exhausted as your body tries to fight off infection. Simply, negative thinking can make you feel sick.
Toxic-Distancing: Are You Man Enough to Step Back From Toxic Friends?
Times like these, it’s never been easier to complain. Unemployment, homelessness, and racial tensions are all at new highs, while the economy, our ability to pay rent and the quality of life appear to be at all-time lows. Anyone could make a full-blown hobby out of complaining in a time where there’s no end of things to complain about. It starts small but quickly it begins to affect those closest to you, and it’s highly infectious to people who are forced to absorb that negative energy. But who can stand that for long?
Solutions are found in looking towards the positive. That’s why people say it’s good to surround yourself with positive people. You’d much rather be infected by good vibes and people who are more focused on solutions than problems, people who use words like “empathy” more than “enemy.” So while complaining may be synonymous with negativity, solutions can be synonymous with positivity, and solutions are what we’re in need of right now, locally and globally.
Basically, stop complaining. It’s only making things worse.
More Man Enough: Roll the Dice and Transform Your Life (If Not Now, When?)
Gratitude, conversely, is complaining’s worst nightmare. Gratitude has been studied by neuroscience to have strong effects on anxiety, negativity and even grief. If gratitude had an evil twin, it’d be complaining, which means if you’ve been labeled a complainer or feel consumed by negativity throughout your day — short fuse, big temper, quick to anger — then gratitude is the antidote you’re looking for.
Before you go down the long-winded road of anti-depressants, first try this. It’s actually simple, painless and takes all of about 15 seconds. Best of all, it’s free and unlimited.
Rewire Your Rewire
Psychologists have described the “happiness exercise” as a great way to find gratitude that not only brings in happy thoughts to replace negative ones, but it’s a great habit to get into that can rewire your brain back towards positivity. It’s like your morning coffee that gets your brain going when you wake up, except without the need to pee all day.
Several studies in the last decade have measured the effects, finding that people who count their blessings on a daily basis tend to be happier. It puts space between toxic emotions that can cause toxic manifestations, but even better, you don’t have to share your gratitude if you don’t want to (although we recommend trying it from time to time). The more you practice gratitude, the more likely you are to appreciate things and people around you, which, again, sounds a lot like what we’re in dire need of right now.
3 Good Things
The happiness exercise psychologists recommend for daily gratitude only takes about three minutes, but it could be as easy as 15 seconds. All you have to do is think of three simple things that went well today before you go to sleep. Sit with each one for a minute and ruminate on it. Writing down ideas can only help strengthen those positive vibes, and you can read them again when you wake up, but the idea is to keep it simple and remain grateful for what you do have, as opposed to the things you want that you don’t have, which might be a source of complaining.
Whether it’s your mother, a perfectly ripe mango, the feeling of sand on your feet, a nice walk with your dog, having a woman you trust nearby, the sounds of crickets at night, stars in the sky, whatever feels right in the moment, write it down and be grateful.
The 3 easy steps to ‘3 Good Things’:
- Think about your day, consider the good things that presented themselves.
- Write down three things you’re grateful for, anything at all.
- Sit with each one for a moment and consider how they made your day better.
And if you’re struggling throughout the day with negative and find yourself on the verge of a good complaint, stop and think about three things that are working for you in the moment, even if it feels like nothing is working. Maybe both your shoes are tied, or even the fact you have shoes at all. Keep it simple. Keep it sweet. And quit your complaining.
That’s what the holidays are for (wink).
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Cover image: prostock-studio (Envato Elements)
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Cedric the Entertainer on Fatherhood Myths: Successful Dad Doesn’t Mean Great Dad
In our latest Man Enough episode, one of the “Original Kings of Comedy,” Cedric Entertainer, joined Grant Gustin and Justin Baldoni in his “COVID casual” robe to drop a bit of fatherly wisdom and dispel a few myths surrounding what makes a good dad.
“Being a guy who was raised in a single-parent household, I’m from that generation where the man makes the money,” Cedric said. “But that was my way of taking care of the family. As long as you do that, you did your job. Now that my kids are teenagers, I’ve come to realize that I was a very distant father to my own kids, and it hurts when you realize you don’t know your children the way you should.”
While quarantine has proven a useful opportunity for some fathers to spend quality time at home, it’s been just as big of a reality for the things many dads don’t have to handle while they’re busy earning outside. With more than 30 years as “the entertainer,” including two projects (a biopic Son of the South and comedy, Poor Greg Drowning) on the COVID backburner, Cedric has had plenty of time to take a fatherly inventory.
“My father was around, I just wouldn’t give him his credit. You can be there and let them know you’re there if they need anything, but you’re not engaged. It’s interesting to recognize that I’m not the father I thought I was,” he said. “I take great pride in my kids being my kids because I’m their dad. Sometimes you project an image of yourself, but when things slow down, you can see you let someone else do a lot of the work. You have no excuses when you don’t have to be anywhere.”
More ‘Man Enough’: Superhero Grant Gustin Is Man Enough to Go to Therapy, Are You?
Cedric the Engager
Whereas fathers of older generations just wanted to put food on the table, the new generations are faced with the task of trying to pave their own paths, run their own businesses or work multiple jobs to have the same effect today. And that kind of commitment can make fatherhood nearly impossible, which is why so many families rely on others for help in raising kids, which enables that distance to grow between fathers and their sons or daughters.
“It’s a practice of newer generation dads to be more engaged. The old architects of man say you have to be strong and you have to be a leader of your family and can’t show weakness. My father wasn’t really “there” so I kind of made up being a dad what I thought it should be,” he said. “I was providing, but not necessarily caring.”
Cedric is nothing if not owning his past mistakes, claiming he used to be the dad who told his son to “man up” when he would cry, but he strives to be better now.
“Maybe you thought you’d taught them something but you didn’t teach them anything.”
Not only does that “providing” come with negative side effects for fatherhood, but it also puts a strain or distance between your own personal self-care. But therapy, along with some close-knit quarantining, has given him a new lease on fatherhood.
“My therapy came through couple’s therapy, but it helped me understand I needed this place to voice issues I’d been having and had no idea how to deal with. It goes back to why men are more likely to commit suicide,” he said. “It’s a degree of selfishness that guys grow up with that allows them to be great, powerful human beings. But that same selfishness doesn’t allow you to share anything, which leads men to do something erratic or based off a problem they decided that’s too big to fix.”
As kids begin to grow and mature on their own, fathers slowly return to themselves, but therapy also showed Cedric that building a family empire still requires a solid foundation, even when the little ones leave the nest.
“Your relationships in those early years are all about building the corporation of your family, but as the kids grow up, you realize nobody’s in love. You can let that get so callus that you go into your own corners, but therapy has led me to ask a lot of questions about my attitude toward so many things.”
Rich Dad, Poor Dad
According to Cedric, the generations of young Black men, many of whom were fatherless due to incarceration in the ’80s and ’90s, are now becoming fathers themselves after, in many cases, not having one. While racial disparity has become America’s number-one conversation today, prisons have been imprisoning Black men more than five times as much as white men, even ten-fold in a handful of states.
“They don’t have these tools of men to talk to and people who can lead them,” Cedric said. “We’re all a community, so we have to take our time and find out what’s broken. Just know you’re not individually the only one responsible for what happens to you. Go find a little help.”
Although many boys struggle to find consistency in father figures due to wealth inequality or toxic masculinity, the growing absence of successful dads, who may be inclined to give money or shiny objects in place of attention, started raising eyebrows in late 2016. As a result, teens in affluent areas with money and access to lethal substances started experiencing their own epidemic, which began with horse sedatives and quickly escalated to elephant tranquilizers.
It all goes to show, regardless of the reason, kids need their dads to do more than just show up. Whether you’re a dad right now or 10 years from now, what will you strive to be better at for your kids?
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