Nigel Farage milkshake

Image credit: YouTube screengrab

Nothing unites people more strongly than a common dislike. The easiest way to build friendships and communicate is through something negative,” author Trevor Blake.

A harmless habit?

Have you ever asked someone if they’re okay and after forty minutes wished you hadn’t? Once you’ve escaped with one arm intact, because you’ve chewed the other one down to the elbow, do you avoid or even hide from them? Perhaps you feel empathy, reflect on their plight and invite them over for another chat and a cup of tea so you can do the same to the other arm?

I’m embarrassed to admit that I fall into the former category. Not only have I realised my sympathy gene is missing (I blame my mother) but unless it’s a serious ailment or, of course if someone has died, I can feel myself starting to smile as their story of woe unfolds. This is, I admit, an inappropriate affliction I’ve had since my teenage years when being thrown out of class for ill-timed laughter was not unusual. People say it’s a ‘nervous habit’ so perhaps I need counselling? Because, just like one of Mary Berry’s sponges, I cannot control the corners of my mouth from rising when people moan for an extended period and then realise, at the very end or maybe not, that they haven’t asked how I am.

Of course, we all moan at times. The British are known as a ‘nation of moaners’ particularly about our unpredictable weather. Some say, ‘a good moan does you good’ but is too much constant complaining bad for our health and for the person on the receiving end? Are we moaning about the same old thing, nothing in particular or perhaps things we feel helpless to change? It often feels that we are moaning now more than ever. If true, is there a serious side to this somewhat harmless pastime?

Apparently, there is. Relate, the UK’s largest provider of relationship support, has stacks of information on how to ‘moan effectively’ on their website and, no, it’s not talking about in the bedroom! They suggest we should ask ourselves why we are moaning and consider the effects of this on others, such as, damage to self-esteem and ‘counter moaning’ – meeting fire with fire so relationships become like a battleground. But what about when it feels like our whole country is becoming one big battleground, with milkshakes flying off the shelves into the faces of our foes and aggressive rebuffs dished out to anyone who dares to disagree with us?

A nation at It

Moaning can be exhausting, depressing and, according to Relate, it can become a ‘habit’. As a nation, we might heed their relationship advice, which includes, five tips on communication. They say we need to consider the core reason for our moaning. Has there been a big change, something we’re unfamiliar with and are we looking for someone to blame? As a nation, I would say so yes, absolutely – Brexit and all the shenanigans surrounding it for the last however many years, has caused a tsunami of moaning which appears to be building in momentum rather than dissipating as we see the end in site. Or maybe not…

And it’s not just Brexit. What about austerity? Hasn’t the sustained measure of cuts to our crucial services been detrimental to people’s mental health, well-being and added to the nation’s misery? Under these circumstances, it’s understandable that people are moaning on such a large scale. But is it productive? And, importantly, what about the short and long-term effects on us all?

Couples, colleagues, families and friends have all been arguing over the merits of leaving or staying as part of the European Union (some have fallen out). But it’s an argument that hasn’t come to any satisfactory conclusion after years of intense debate. We’re all jaded with the whole Brexit bubble and just want it to hurry up and burst. And there is the problem. Along with change, uncertainty is right up there with the things that causes us angst. Our nation’s future is uncertain, so we’re all left floundering like salmon in a waterless stream. But what can we do as individuals when our politics is in such a sorry state?

We could try taking ourselves out of the debate or at least limit our exposure to it. Turn off social media and the news for a bit but, admittedly, it’s pretty addictive! Perhaps we need a complete overhaul of how we live. How can we can take back control from our politicians who seem to be making more than just a little mess of their responsibilities and our lives?

Control is key

Independent think tank Autonomy and many others highlight the benefits of rethinking our lives by reducing the hours we work without a pay cut. This would give us more time to spend with family and friends, perhaps take up a new hobby, get outdoors and connect with nature. All things we know can help improve our mental health and wellbeing and stop a cycle of negativity.

A friend suggested we should have ‘comedy on prescription’. That’s not going to happen but watching more comedy on TV and live too isn’t bad advice. We could always buy a ‘moan box’ that works a bit like a swear one (or why not have both). Every time you feel a moan surface or realise, mid flow, that you’re ‘at it again’, stick a pound or a penny in your box. You never know, you might just be able to afford that holiday you’ve been moaning that you can’t afford!

But, seriously, perhaps 2019 is the perfect time for an Anti-Moaning Movement that includes ‘us’ taking back some control over our lives. We can do a certain amount as individuals, by making more of an effort to become part of and contribute to our communities and at the ballot box. Perhaps a People’s Assembly as supported by the Green Party of England and Wales is a way forward?

We can only but try to unleash our nation laden down by a heavy austerity and Brexit chain mail suit that is slowly sucking the joy from our lives. But, if we are going to turn 2019 around, we better get a move on fast as we’re already halfway through the year. Or maybe I should say, it’s fine we have six months to go. Cup half-full and all that…

Julie Gulliver

About Julie Gulliver

Julie Gulliver is a postgraduate student at the Open University living in East Anglia. Julie's interests include animal welfare, environment, mental health and wellbeing. Julie is passionate about equal opportunities in education and loves the arts & libraries!