Pet Peeves: The Role of Happiness and Mindfulness

relationship difficulties: young couple having a conflictFeeling frustrated by slow walkers, people who fail to use their turn signal, or people who forget to cover their mouths when they cough? These relatively petty concerns are called pet peeves. Pet peeves like these and others represent particular occasions, actions, or individuals that cause a person to complain, feel frustrated or get angry.

How are relationships affected by pet peeves? What role does mindfulness play in reducing negative feelings? Kowalski and colleagues sought to answer these questions in their study Pet Peeves and Happiness: How Do Happy People Complain? They examined participants’ pet peeves via a survey that included listing biggest personal irritations, assessments of positive and negative emotions, mindfulness, depression, and happiness.

Results from this study suggest that the most reported pet peeves included chewing gum loudly, mumbling, being unclean, not listening, whining, and being late. In addition, pet peeves made people less satisfied with their relationships with others. This was due to people constantly expressing their annoyances to their significant other. As a result, individuals were irritated and felt that their partner was intentionally trying to make them upset. Furthermore, people reported feeling unhappy due to others engaging in their pet peeves. Mindfulness appeared to make a difference in how people felt when they saw others partaking in their pet peeves. Kowalski and colleagues found two ways that people can deal effectively with their pet peeves.  First, people can express their grievances when they think that it will make a difference. Individuals realize that by expressing their grievances to their significant other, it will only make things worse. Second, individuals can engage in mindfulness to better deal with their pet peeves and increase happiness. Happy people tend to avoid engaging in negative thoughts. By thinking of their pet peeves and expressing their annoyances to others, this decreases feelings of happiness and increases negativity.

AlexandraBy Alexandra Graff
Alexandra is a senior, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, she plans on working in the education or healthcare field as a psychometrist.

Kowalski, R., Allison, B., Giumetti, G., Turner, J., Whittaker, E., Frazee, L., & Stephens, J. (2014). Pet peeves and happiness: How do happy people complain? The Journal of Social Psychology, 154, 278-282.