Life may seem better if you zip your lips

May 27, 2007|By SUSAN REIMER

WHEN YOU'RE NOT ARTICUlating complaints, then they have nowhere to go, and your brain literally stops producing them, and you become a happier person."

That's Will Bowen's theory, anyway.

He's the pastor of Christ Church Unity in Kansas City, Mo., and he has become an international sensation with his challenge that we all stop complaining.

He gives out purple silicone bracelets -- a la Lance Armstrong's yellow "Livestrong" bracelets -- as a reminder to stop focusing on the bad and focus on the good. Imprinted on each bracelet are the words "A Complaint-Free World."

"When you're focusing your attention on what's wrong or complaining," Bowen has told reporters, "you're going to get more of what you're complaining about."

Since issuing the challenge to his parishioners last summer, Bowen has made headlines, been a guest on Oprah and The Today Show and received requests from over the world for his bracelets.

You are supposed to put one on your wrist as a reminder. If you find yourself complaining, switch the bracelet to the other wrist and start again. Bowen says it should take 21 complaint-

free days for us to break the habit.

It isn't easy.

It took Bowen three months -- and three bracelets -- to quit complaining. He kept breaking the bracelets because he was switching them from wrist to wrist so often.

I am trying to quit complaining, too, though I don't wish to accessorize. Purple is not my color.

I have been thinking for a while that complaining might be as bad for me as pasta or white wine, though for different reasons. Bowen is right. It is a habit. A groove you get stuck in until it becomes impossible to get out.

I am no Pollyanna, and I am as cynical about the motives of others as any newspaper reporter might be. But I started to wonder what my life would be like if I assumed that everyone on the planet was doing the best they could do at any given moment, including my husband and children.

And myself.

A byproduct of complaining about others is that you often find fault with yourself as well. This is part of Bowen's cosmic theory of complaining -- that it just brings more of the same back to you.

"You're sending out this vibrational energy into the universe that you're a victim, and the universe responds with more negativity," Bowen preaches.

I am not sure about the universe, but it certainly affects your mood and the start of your day if you find fault with the service in the coffee shop instead of finding pleasure in the delicious, hot jolt of the coffee.

Like Bowen, I have had to switch this attitude change from wrist to wrist so often that it often breaks a dozen times a day. But I am determined to husband whatever psychic energy I have left and not blow it on pointless anger and frustration.

Bowen has his critics. There are those who believe that complaining in moderation is a coping mechanism, a harmless venting of anger or frustration that, if locked inside, could do emotional or physical damage.

And there is something diminishing about going through the day without pushing back. You can actually feel more like a victim as a result.

At the very least, Bowen's critics say, he is making people who complain feel bad about themselves -- which may, in fact, prove his point about the negativity roaring back on us like a rip tide.

There is another way to think of this. If everyone stopped complaining, we wouldn't have to listen to people complain.

And that would be one less thing to complain about.@email:

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

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