Note to Self: Don’t Talk About Things that Annoy Me.

Here’s something to do—or rather, not do—that has boosted my happiness and (I bet) the happiness of the people around me: I’m trying to resist the urge to talk about things that are annoying me.

One of my favorite authors, Samuel Johnson, observed: “To hear complaints is wearisome alike to the wretched and the happy.” I finally realized the truth of that statement.Annoyed

So I don’t recount the story of my tangle with the cable guy. I don’t repeat the epic saga of how my laptop screen broke and what I had to do to get it fixed. I’m not complaining about what’s happening with our car or the leak in our wall. I’m not telling everyone about the difficulties I’m facing with the jacket art for my soon-to-be-published book, The Happiness Project.

Sometimes it’s a relief to talk about such things, but even when it’s a relief, I’ve noticed, it’s also an irritant. I get caught up again in the bad feelings that the episode aroused. One of the most important things I’ve learned from my happiness project is that I should act the way I want to feel, and if I talk about things that annoy me, it will inflame my feelings of irritation.

Often, too, it’s not a relief to talk about things that annoy me. So why do I do it? Out of some twisted feeling of obligation, a notion that I owe it to my friends or family to keep them up-to-date on what’s happening in my life: the subway incident looms large in my mind, so it seems like an important news item. But zoikes, they don’t care if they remain ignorant of the subway incident.

I break this resolution frequently, and not because it’s so much fun to re-live annoying episodes. Turns out, it’s not that much fun. But complaining is a habit. The hard part is to be conscious of what I’m doing, before I do it, so I can remember not to do it.

Do you find yourself spending too much time talking about the things that annoy you? Does it relieve your feelings, or worsen them?

The days are long, but the years are short.