Yesterday, I shared a positive psychology exercise that targets the first element of PERMA – increasing pleasure or positive emotion. Today’s exercise builds on the second element of well-being: Engagement.
This exercise works by asking you to identify and use your personal strengths. Many people spend a lot of time thinking about their weaknesses. For example, when you study for a test, you probably spend more time reviewing material that you find more challenging than the topics that you already understand well. In this activity, rather than identifying and improving areas in which you feel weak, you are asked to think about areas in which you are already strong – and to capitalize on these strengths by using them in new and different ways.
As you’ll see below, I encourage you to share your plan with someone else and to check in later in the week to report back about how you’ve used your signature strengths in new ways. My top strength is “Love of Learning.” This week, I’m going to use that strength in a new way by listening to podcasts about some new-to-me topics, instead of my usual true-crime favorites. If you have a recommendation for a favorite podcast or episode, I’d love to hear about it!
Today’s Positive Psychology Exercise: Using Your Signature Strengths
- Complete the VIA Character Strengths inventory online through https://www.viacharacter.org/ (click “Take the Free VIA Survey” and register to create a free account). Make sure to save your report!
- Consider the strengths for which you earned the highest score. Choose 1-2 of these strengths to explore further. Visit the VIA Institute on Character to learn more about your strengths and see suggestions for ways to put your strengths into action.
- Choose one way in which you’ll put one of your signature strengths into action this week. Try sharing your plan with a friend and checking in to report back about what you’ve tried!
Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S. & Ruch, W. (2015). Strengths-based positive psychology interventions: A randomized placebo-controlled online trial on long-term effects for a signature strengths- vs. a lesser strengths- intervention. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00456
Link to Full-Text Article: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00456/full
Abstract: Recent years have seen an increasing interest in research in positive psychology interventions. There is broad evidence for their effectiveness in increasing well-being and ameliorating depression. Intentional activities that focus on those character strengths, which are most typical for a person (i.e., signature strengths, SS) and encourage their usage in a new way have been identified as highly effective. The current study aims at comparing an intervention aimed at using SS with one on using individual low scoring (or lesser) strengths in a randomized placebo-controlled trial. A total of 375 adults were randomly assigned to one of the two intervention conditions [i.e., using five signature vs. five lesser strengths (LS) in a new way] or a placebo control condition (i.e., early memories). We measured happiness and depressive symptoms at five time points (i.e., pre- and post-test, 1-, 3-, and 6-months follow-ups) and character strengths at pre-test. The main findings are that (1) there were increases in happiness for up to 3 months and decreases in depressive symptoms in the short term in both intervention conditions; (2) participants found working with strengths equally rewarding (enjoyment and benefit) in both conditions; (3) those participants that reported generally higher levels of strengths benefitted more from working on LS rather than SS and those with comparatively lower levels of strengths tended to benefit more from working on SS; and (4) deviations from an average profile derived from a large sample of German-speakers completing the Values-in-Action Inventory of Strengths were associated with greater benefit from the interventions in the SS-condition. We conclude that working on character strengths is effective for increasing happiness and discuss how these interventions could be tailored to the individual for promoting their effectiveness.