Can You Please Not Complain ... for 21 Days?

We've all done it -- griped at the slow driver ahead of us, complained about our boss, the weather, our health.

Pastor Will Bowen of Christ Church Unity in Kansas City, Mo., believes whining has become a national epidemic -- and a roadblock to prosperity. So he started preaching about it.

"I wanted people to stop focusing on what they didn't have in their lives and complaining about it, and to start focusing on what they do have in their lives and being grateful for it."

Bowen had an idea. He handed out purple rubber bracelets and instructed parishioners to move them from one wrist to the other every time they uttered a complaint.

The goal? Not to have to move the bracelet for 21 days.

Click Here for Your Free Bracelet: The church has set up a Web site to expedite orders for bracelets, books and T-shirts.

"I believe that your mind is a manufacturer, and your mouth is a customer. And if the customer stops buying what the manufacturer is producing -- in other words, you stop complaining, the manufacturer retools, and you literally start thinking happier thoughts," Bowen said.

It wasn't easy.

"It took me three months to go 21 consecutive days, and I broke three bracelets in the process just switching it back and forth," Bowen admits.

Eventually, the pastor stopped griping. Remarkably, so did members of his church, including Paul Skeyen.

"It took two weeks to make it through the first day," Skeyen said. "It's very difficult."

Paul and his wife, Anita, sell real estate.

So how do they talk about the market without sounding as if they're complaining?

"We need to run the numbers and share the facts," explained Anita. "And it's not a complaint if you're sharing the facts."

Going "complaint-free" has changed their lives in a number of ways.

"I feel happy. I feel reborn, like a kid again," explained Paul. "That's how I feel through this whole process."

It has also narrowed the Skeyens' social circle.

"'We've found there are a lot of friends we just don't communicate with anymore, because they complain constantly," Paul said.

Bowen's complaint-free crusade has spread around the world.

Every Saturday, volunteers gather in the church basement to ship between 30,000 and 50,000 bracelets. On this particular Saturday, orders will be mailed as far as Thailand, Jordan and Britain.

"I thought when he handed out these bracelets, it would last for a couple of weeks," said church member Jennifer Alsup, who was busy stuffing purple bracelets into a stack of packing envelopes. "And now it's all over the world."

Not that Jennifer is complaining. She proudly wears her purple bracelet on her right wrist.

"I made my 21 days," she said, smiling. "It took me eight months. The hardest part was at work. I'm a nurse."

There is even a complaint-free cruise scheduled for next year.

But -- imagine this! -- there are some complaints about the campaign to stifle complaining.

Barbara Held, a professor of psychology at Bowdoin College and author of "Stop Smiling, Start Kvetching: A Five-Step Guide to Creative Complaining," said, "One size does not fit all. That's true of clothing, and it's true of coping. Some need to vent. Some don't."

Apparently, more people want to vent less. On a recent Sunday morning, Bowen announced the official numbers from the pulpit.

"We have 5.3 million bracelets that we have sent out now," he said. The congregation burst into applause.

Bowen's goal is to distribute 60 million bracelets worldwide, to 1 percent of the world's population.

"We feel that if we can get 60 million bracelets out, that we can totally transform the consciousness of the planet."

He adds, "I think that if a church this size in the Midwest can do something that is impacting the world the way we are, then every one of us is more powerful than we ever dreamed."

And that is hardly a complaint.