Remember learning about “bucket filing?” Books for adults and children alike have been written about this topic, with some unique and useful variations. The general idea is that we all carry an invisible bucket of well-being. Our interactions with others can empty or fill our buckets. Positive encounters, such as acts of kindness or empathy, are bucket fillers that lift us up and help us to feel good. Negative exchanges, such as put-downs or harsh criticism, are bucket emptiers that drain us and leave us feeling badly.
What I like to remember, however, is that keeping my bucket full does not rely solely on the behavior of others. Instead, I can be intentional about filling my own bucket.
Pay attention to what makes you come alive and puts a skip in your step. Notice what gives you calm and contentment. Observe when you are in a state of presence and gratefulness. If you have practices that help you access these thoughts and feelings, regardless of what others do or don’t do, then you have discovered ways to fill your own bucket.
One of my favorite ways to fill my own bucket is horseback riding. I know the experience will fill my bucket because of the pure happiness I feel just to be around horses. I’m thrilled to groom and tack a horse to get it ready for riding, and overjoyed to actually ride it. Once my time with the horse is over I walk away feeling elated and eager to do it again.
There are many ways to fill our buckets that don’t directly involve other people, such as writing, going on a walk, or creating art. From time to time we can take an inventory of such things that offer us this kind of satisfaction and be proactive about doing more of them.
In what activity do you get so easily immersed that you don’t realize the passage of time? Is there a way you like to “reboot” your system to align with the good things of life? Do you have something you like to do that always leaves you feeling better afterward?
Sure it’s nice to fill one another’s buckets and it is important that we do so whenever possible. By practicing the healthy self-care act of filling our own buckets, however, we take a little pressure off those around us. We remind ourselves that we’re ultimately responsible for our emotional serenity. Plus, filling our own buckets teaches us to befriend ourselves and, considering we’re with ourselves until the end, that’s a worthwhile skill to have.
How might you fill your own bucket today?
May you be inspired!