Archive for May 11th, 2018

Photo: Joshua Ness

Research shows that constant grumbling, bewailing, and lamenting not only torments the people around us but harms our health and adds stress to our lives. Repeatedly feeling bad, sad, or powerless creates a circuit of chemicals in our brains, making it easier for unhappy thoughts to recycle and harder for you to feel the payoff of gratitude, appreciation, and well-being.

So why do we tell the same sad story and reinforce the misery despite the costs to our personal and professional lives? There is a growing body of research trying to understand this habit. With all the negatives associated with complaining, what positive end is this behavior trying to accomplish? Well, when I work with someone who is constantly criticizing their partner, I try to help them see the underlying desire within their gripes.

“You never talk to me about your day” suggests a longing for connection. “You always have an excuse when I ask you to go to dinner with my friends” is actually a longing for shared time. Rather than whining about what someone is doing wrong, it is important to learn to phrase things positively. This is an interpersonal skill that requires time to develop, but it can improve relationships drastically. Saying, “I miss hearing what’s going on with you” would certainly have a better outcome. Similarly, telling your partner, “I want to share you with my friends from work” would greatly increase the chance of a positive response.

When the complainer is someone we deal with regularly, like a friend or co-worker, there are a few things to remember. If we look at complaining as the misfired expression of a wish, there are three sources where it can come from:

A desire for control.

This happens in a difficult situation where complaining gives the person an illusion of control, as they are at least “able to protest.”

A need for validation or sympathy.

Chronic complainers usually want someone to say, “Oh, poor you,” as it can feel nurturing.

A fear of managing a problem directly.

It may be frightening to directly address a problem and request for something new to happen. This could be their way to let off steam about an ongoing issue without risking actual consequences.

If you know someone who is a complainer, here are two options you can use to make the outcome better for everyone:


Ask the person what things would look like if the situation became better for them. Encourage them to describe their ideal outcome and think of three things they could do to make that happen—if they are willing, of course. Have them create an action plan and let you know how this plan works for them.

Set boundaries, compassionately but firmly.

Tell them you want to talk to them when they are feeling unhappy, stuck, or troubled but that you don’t think having the same conversation is doing either of you a service. Be honest about the effect it is having on you; say that though you want things to change, you are starting to feel distressed, too. You might also suggest they talk to someone with the right skills to help them manage the issue more successfully.

It’s one thing to express sadness, grief, or anger about an event in your life. In fact, it is essential to our health that we recognize our feelings and pay attention to the message they give us. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel our sadness, it can get stuck in us as ongoing grief. If we don’t see our anger as a message that something needs to change, it can turn into resentment or feelings of being victimized in other situations. If we don’t use our fear to recognize present danger or if we focus on the fear from a dangerous situation in our past, it can turn into anxiety; we may imagine the worst-case scenario even if there is no reason to expect it.

Paying attention to our feelings is necessary, but complaining is not. Complaining does, however, point to a source of distress. If you suspect you are a constant complainer, look for the trouble underneath. Find the courage and support to deal directly with the issue, and focus on what needs to be different. Ask yourself what the positive intention of your complaining is, and see it as a message pointing to an action.



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The HPV vaccine routinely offered to teenage girls in the UK is safe and protects against a virus that can cause cancer of the cervix, an independent review has found.

The analysis by the Cochrane Group provides solid evidence that should reassure parents considering having their daughters immunised, say experts.

It looked at 26 trials involving more than 73,000 girls and women.

Serious side-effects following the vaccine were rare.

Campaigners maintain the vaccine can cause harm and say this needs to be explored more fully.

Some parents say their daughters have become unwell after being immunised.

The European Medicines AgencyThe World Health Organization and now Cochrane have looked at the evidence and say HPV vaccination is safe and worthwhile.

Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at Public Health England, said: “This study adds to the wealth of growing evidence from around the world which shows that the HPV vaccine is the most effective way for young girls to protect themselves against cervical cancer.

“Most women aged 15 to 25 years in the UK have now received the HPV vaccine.”

Robert Music, from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said although uptake of the vaccine in the UK is high, it is slipping.

“We cannot afford to get complacent. We must strive to reduce the myths and stigma around the vaccine.”

Vaccine safety is kept under constant review and the Cochrane Group says that more data is required to provide greater certainty about very rare side-effects.

HPV vaccineImage copyrightSCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

What is the HPV vaccine?

Girls can get it free from the NHS from the age of 12 up to 18. It is designed to stop them getting infected with a virus – Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – which can cause abnormal changes to the cells of the cervix or neck of the womb that, if untreated, can lead to cancer.

The jab used by the NHS is called Gardasil and it protects against four strains of HPV – 16, 18, 6 and 11. Types 16 and 18 are the “high risk” ones linked to cervical cancer.

Girls are offered the vaccine ideally before they become sexually active, meaning they are unlikely to have come into contact with the virus at that time.

How dangerous is HPV?

HPV infections are very common and don’t usually cause any symptoms, meaning most people won’t know they’re infected.

They can be caught by any close skin-to-skin sexual contact with another person who already has one.

In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and doesn’t cause any health issues. But some women with the high risk strains won’t clear it and may develop cancer.

Untreated, a third of high-grade cellular changes will lead to cervical cancer, which is why the NHS offers HPV jabs and smear tests to prevent or detect and treat any abnormalities.

What about HPV jabs for teenage boys?

In some countries, boys are also routinely offered an HPV jab – to protect them and their future partners. HPV can cause anal and penile cancer, as well as oral cancer.

In the UK, the vaccine is recommended for men who have sex with men.

What about older women?

The jab should be given before someone has come into contact with HPV.

The NHS does not offer the vaccine to women over the age of 18.

All women between the ages of 25 and 64 should still attend for regular smears even if they have been immunised. The smear test can be used to check for HPV infection and to look for any pre-cancerous cell changes that might need treating.


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