Recently I read about a movement which was started with the aim of improving the lives of a group of people. In July 2006, Will Bowen, an American church minister challenged himself and his congregation to go 21 days with no complaining, gossiping or criticising. Each person participating in the challenge was given a purple rubber bracelet. They would move it to the other wrist if they complained and start the 21 day challenge again.
Word of the challenge spread and to date over 10 million people have participated. Will Bowen had no idea his challenge would be taken up by such a large number of people. This is an example of one person initiating a change which then took on a life of its own. One never knows how far reaching a simple idea or act will be.
Bowen’s definition of complaining is the expression of discontent with the way things are. He believed, as do many others, whatever we focus our attention on has a tendency to increase. Complaining and thinking about things we are unhappy with attracts more negative things into our life. Perhaps this is why when we say, 'It's going to be one of those days,' and we expect everything to go wrong, it does.
Bowen acknowledges the necessity of expressing pain and grief when a traumatic event occurs. He doesn’t class this as complaining. He did not say everything would go right if a person would just stop complaining.
Bowen thought people weren’t aware of how often they complain. It is claimed even people who are pretty positive complain more than they realise. Wearing the purple bracelet and physically moving it to the other wrist every time a participant complained increased their awareness. Bowen himself broke 3 bracelets because he swapped them from one wrist to the other so many times. The challenge may have been harder for him than he expected.
It can be difficult to find a substitute for the complaining habit. Bowen suggested people talk about what they wanted things to be like instead. However, if people couldn’t think of something positive to say he said they should say nothing. He claimed in time the person would have fewer unhappy thoughts because the brain stops producing them when there is no outlet.
When the movement started to spread, Bowen decided to write his book, ‘A Complaint Free World.’ It has become a best seller. Eradicating the complaining habit is said to lead to better health, stronger relationships and increased career success.
Dennis Prager, an American radio talk show host, author and public speaker says, ‘Complaining not only ruins everybody else's day, it ruins the complainer's day, too. The more we complain, the more unhappy we get.’