“Unleashing Happiness” a monthly blog by Karen Lee Stevens

Founder and Director of Wellness Programs, Karen Lee Stevens shares her insights as she explores regular topics and experiences through the lens of mental health, wellness and the human-animal bond.

Cold Noses, Warm Hearts

BLOG POST #9 – How Full Is Your Bucket?

May 6, 2024


It’s hard being a kid these days. Case in point: On a recent cool and cloudy morning, one of my normally bubbly Mindfulness students tugged on the sleeve of my purple t-shirt, and with tears running down her face, whispered: “My bucket was empty yesterday.”

Photo of sad little girl.

I had just finished reading a children’s book to one of my first-grade classes called Have You Filled a Bucket Today? With its simple yet profound message, the book beautifully illustrates the concept of emotional well-being as an invisible bucket we each carry. Every kind word, act of compassion, and moment of joy fills our bucket, leaving us feeling happy and secure. On the flip side, negativity and unkindness deplete our buckets, leading to sadness and anger.

After a gentle inquiry, this sweet little girl told me that she had to spend the weekend at her dad’s house, when all she wanted was the comfort of being in her own home. I surmised that her parents were either separated or divorced and this 6-year-old was being shuttled back and forth between two homes. My heart went out to her, and I knew it was time to offer more than a comforting pat on the shoulder.

Photo of adult and child hands.

Pulling her aside, I suggested we revisit the concept of the invisible bucket. We talked about ways to fill her bucket, even when things felt difficult. We brainstormed ideas like spending quality time with her dad, doing activities they both enjoyed (pillow fort, anyone?), and even making a “Breathing Break” corner in her room at his house where she could go to relax and read or draw.

By the end of our conversation, a glimmer of hope lit up her eyes and I knew her gloomy cloud of sadness had lifted, just like the clouds in the morning sky had suddenly vanished, revealing the brilliant light of the sun.

Mindfulness photo collage
This experience with my young student highlighted the power of Mindfulness in helping children navigate their emotions. Have You Filled a Bucket Today? offered a simple framework for them to understand and actively participate in their emotional well-being. It’s a lesson that resonated with the entire class. Sitting together in a circle on the carpet, with little therapy dog, Echo, snoozing peacefully on her pillow, my students and I explored various ways to fill buckets, both within the classroom and at home. We created “bucket fillers” – small notes acknowledging positive behavior – and decorated them with colorful drawings. These notes served as reminders to spread kindness and fill each other’s buckets throughout the day.
Positive affirmations
Yes, life is challenging – for kids and adults alike. But when we choose kindness and positivity, it’s like filling our own buckets with sunshine. That light spills over, warming the hearts of those around us. A simple smile, a helping hand, a listening ear – these acts, however small, create a ripple effect. We lift one another up, and that collective overflow of care and connection becomes a powerful force in the world. After all, isn’t that what truly defines what it means to be human – fostering a world where everyone’s bucket brims with the joy of belonging and compassion?
Have you filled a bucket today?

Questions or comments? Contact Karen@TherapyDogsSB.org

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