Are You a Bucket Filler?

 In Better Life, Relationships

Have you ever red the children’s book, “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” by Carol McCloud? It describes how we all have invisible buckets we carry around with us. Our interactions with others can fill both of our buckets or empty them. It is a wonderful metaphor illustrating how we feel happier (full buckets) when we express and experience kindness, appreciation, and love, and we feel worse (empty buckets) when we have interactions that are impatient, nagging, or inconsiderate. Research takes this a step further. Research has shown that if we dip into a bucket, (negative interaction), it takes more than one ladle full of kindness to replace it. In fact, we would have to dish up at least 3 servings of positive interactions. Studies have shown that this is true for our relationships with others such as our partner, our kids, our colleagues, etc. and it is also true for our own personal wellbeing.

I try to remember this with my 8 year old daughter. Sometimes I feel like she has the definition of “hurry up” backwards. “I told you to get dressed. What have you been doing for the past 5 minutes? We are going to be late!” She prefers a leisurely pace and doesn’t fully appreciate how fast 5 minutes can go by. So am I then filling her bucket with enough appreciation and love to replace the nagging and impatience? I hope so but some days are hard.

What about our own wellbeing? If we have a day that is stressful and frustrating and our bucket is feeling low, do we take the time to notice or purposely add some positive moments? These can be external activities such as listening to a favorite upbeat song or going for a walk, but they can also be internal such as remembering a fun outing or a wonderful time of feeling peaceful and serene. One of my favorites is sitting in my kayak in the middle of a lake in northern Wisconsin at sunset listening to the loons.

Check out the bucket book (it’s not just for kids) and think about your bucket and the bucket of others today. Pay attention and see if you can’t do more filling than emptying.


Tina Hallis, Ph.D., is a professional speaker and consultant for The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations fulfill their true potential using strategies from the science of Positive Psychology.

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