Your Concierge Physician’s Summer Newsletter, part 1

July 6, 2014

I hope the Summer 2014 Newsletter finds you all well and happy. It is hard to believe that a year has passed in my new concierge practice.  It has been gratifying to help many of you through difficult issues knowing that the standard medical system would not have been able to. You never know what life will bring you but it is good to know you have me to help get you through it.

Many of you have joined me at the lectures and “walk with your doc.” There will be more events. I welcome your input as I want to make this practice relevant to you.  I am your partner, teacher and coach in your health. The first Wednesday of the month at 4 pm we meet at the office to walk. Please join me if you are available.

My brother, Owen Griffith, is a positive reminder of the importance of attitude in happiness and health. He has a blog, you would like to read more of his writings visit his blog or contact me and I will print them out for you. This is his latest posting.

Enjoy the summer. Savor each moment.

Nancy Griffith MD, MPH

Why Do People Complain So Much?  From Owen Griffith’s blog

This is an interesting question, “Why do people complain so much?”  The more direct question is, “Why do I still complain sometimes?”  Well, honestly, sometimes it just feels good to complain and blame someone or something else when things are not going my way.  It is easier to pick something apart than to find the true goodness in it.  Negativity and complaining are reinforced by the media and watching the evening news.  In addition, for every behavior, there is a payoff.  Sometimes, we are not aware of the payoff and it may not be a positive payoff.  For example, some people complain because they want others to commiserate with them.

In past lives, I have worked in many different environments and I have found that some people take time to complain to each other every day.  For a while, I was one of these people, until I developed the awareness and realized how complaining made me feel.  Complaining intensifies all my negative feelings and gives a deceptive immediate payoff that turns into a negative long term payoff.  At first, I feel relieved when I complain because I can blame someone or something else for any lack or excess in my life.  But in the end, I turn into a victim, powerless and depressed.  We are not victims, we are volunteers.  When I remind myself that I control my attitude and no matter what is happening on the outside, I can change the world by changing my attitude, then I am immediately put back in the driver seat.

When I used to observe others complaining, it almost gets humorous, as they attempted to outdo each other with their complaints.  But, they probably do not even notice what they are doing or the damage it is doing.  This pernicious habit gets embedded into their world view and it becomes extremely difficult to enjoy even the simplest pleasure in life when you have a negative viewpoint, fueled by incessant complaints.

One powerful rule in my classroom is that no one (including me) is allowed to complain.  If you do, you will be asked to say 3 positive things about whoever or whatever it is you are complaining about.  This habit comes from practical experience.  Many moons ago, I was on a long drive with my little sister.  I was getting tired and talking about someone, complaining about this person.  My sister said, “You know, when someone says something negative about another person, I make them say 3 positive things about that person.”  That blew me away.  I did not even notice that I was saying something negative about this other person.  I laughed it off, but she said, “Come on, I am waiting for the 3 positive things.”  It took a while, but I came up with 3 positive attributes for this person.  I felt surprisingly cleansed and I thanked my sister.  I adopted this rule and still try to live by it.

In my first year of teaching at a different school, I found myself complaining to the principal about a student.  The principal said, “That is a good student who just made a bad choice.”  That changed my attitude about that student and stopped my complaining.  I remind myself of that saying all the time and share it with other teachers.  Furthermore, I even apply this to people in general, saying, “That is a good person who just made a bad choice.”  It sure makes it easier to forgive and keep an open door to restoring relationships.  This also helps quell the cynic in me who likes to come out when I am tired.

For many of us, complaining is more subtle than that; we find ourselves complaining a little, just enough to steal some of our joy.  In my classroom, we conduct an experiment at the beginning of every school year.  This experiment involves living with a specific question for one day, “Can I go all day without complaining?”  I have the students carry around a 3 by 5 inch card and write down any instance when they complain or even feel like complaining.  For some students, this develops an awareness that will help them for their entire lives as they cultivate the ability to choose a positive attitude in any situation.  I have students share their complaints, some are humorous and some are more mundane.

For example, one student said he complained every night and never thought about saying, “I hate doing my homework!”  He turned that into a gratitude saying, “I am grateful I get to learn by do my homework and get a good job someday.”  Another student wrote down that they do not like setting the table every night for dinner.  When we flipped that to a gratitude, this student starting saying, “Thank you that I have a family that loves me and I have enough food to eat.”  The students write these gratitude on the cards and pull them out if they find the complaints coming back.  It does work when the students try this and keep the effort up.  One student said, “I never noticed how much my Mom complains until I did this exercise and now I tell her all the time to stop complaining.”  When I spoke to the Mom, she said that my exercise really made her mad at first, but then she saw how much it really helped improve the dynamics of her family.  In my classroom, by coupling this exercise with starting our gratitude journals, we establish an unshakable foundation for a positive classroom for the year.

So, if you are up for a challenge, carry a card around with you and see if you can go 24 hours without complaining.  If you do complain, don’t beat yourself up, but congratulate yourself on building up a new awareness.  Being aware of a bad habit is the first step to changing it.  If possible, turn the complaint into a gratitude.  This exercise may help build a new awareness in your life and help you to stop being a victim, bringing more joy into your life. If you can string together a few days together without complaining, you will notice some other positive things going on, like your relationships improving and feeling more energy to put into your work or your play.  It is truly astonishing to think how much time and energy we can waste with complaining.  If you can go 21 days without complaining (this is difficult, so just keep trying), you have established a new a powerful habit that will serve you well for the rest of your life.

As your concierge doctor, I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.