Institute a complaint box

Last fall our family had developed the bad habit of focusing on the one bad thing happening instead of the many good things in our lives. So we converted an unused shoe box into a complaint box. Here's why it helped:

It just feels better to get it out. Turns out, there's science behind this. Says Shawn Achor in The Happiness Advantage, "When feeling high levels of distress, the quickest to recover are those who can identify how they're feeling and put those feelings into words. Verbal information almost immediately diminishes the power of negative emotion."

Yet other people don't really want to listen to you vent. Especially about the same things over and over again. A complaint box allows you to articulate your frustrations without burdening others. And it's especially helpful if the people with whom you're frustrated are in the same household. If you all agree that what goes into the box stays in the box, you can get it out of your system without getting yourself in trouble.

In our case, when the complaint box was full (with complaints ranging from my son's "brussels sprouts" to my "client we lost," we trashed the whole thing which also felt cathartic. And after having a safe place to vent our frustrations for a while, we all felt less likely to complain.

Too many aspects of life getting on your nerves? It might be time to institute a complaint box in your own living space.

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