English has no precise antonym for “complain.” All the closest verbs require an object: you can praise a thing or compliment a thing, but you can complain, full stop. Whatever the opposite would be, Kurt Vonnegut says you should do it. It will make you happier.
Austin Kleon, writer and artist and human inspirational calendar, loves to share advice and ideas from Vonnegut. His latest advice comes from Vonnegut’s last book, the essay collection A Man Without a Country. Vonnegut describes his Uncle Alex, who said that human beings “so seldom noticed it when they were happy.”
So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”ï»¿
This is the most stripped-down version of a gratitude journal, where you write down things you’re grateful for. In studies, gratitude journals have helped people improve their longterm sense of well-being, including patients dealing with depression. It helps whether things are going well or poorly, because for the vast majority of us, on every day, even the worst days, there is at least one small thing to be grateful for.
share your gratitude to your partner. (My partner and I use the last method to manage stress and sleep better.)
Or you can simply say aloud whenever it applies: “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” It’s corny. But it’s Vonnegut-corny, and that is always OK.