What is your ‘D’ to getting mentally fit?
For the practical activity relating to ‘D’, the team at Get Mentally Fit are going to tap into our D-avid Attenborough within. This will involve getting amongst the beautiful natural environments surrounding the Gold Coast. The benefits of nature connectedness and allowing yourself thinking time are well documented. Considering Seligman’s PERMA model, relating to authentic happiness, these nature-based activities will support the attainment of all 5 key element aims.
This fortnight, you can join us and tap into your inner D-avid Attenborough or break out and book that D-rumming lesson you’ve been putting off for years. How about just playing some D-avid Bowie (loud), draw like D-a Vinci, binge on some Doctor Who, D-ress up like D-ame Edna, have a Star Wars party where you are D-arth Vader, or get your D-isco on and D-ance like Danny Zuko.
Alternatively, if you are thinking of setting up an activity with your kids, check out this link (don’t eat each too many donuts): https://www.pinterest.com.au/janamarie76/letter-d-activities/
What is the focus of this fortnight’s article?
We feel it is highly beneficial that you understand the vocabulary and concepts relating to Character Strengths, which requires you to undertake the VIA Character Strengths Survey to identify your TOP 5.
This fortnight, we are intentionally building on last fortnight’s article for ‘C’ that introduced the concept of Character Strengths. More specifically, this fortnight’s article proposes 7 Powerful Outcomes that can be enjoyed from skillfully understanding and employing your knowledge of character strengths.
The question is?
Rather than just going through the motions, can we effectively employ knowledge relating to our unique character strengths to help us to thrive? Considering the associated research (see reading list at the end), and our direct experience…YES!
Research has shown many positive benefits of using character strengths across physical, psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual domains. These benefits have been especially noted within the business and education sectors.
Specific benefits of character strengths have been linked with each of the main elements of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment. They have been associated with many other benefits that help people amplify the positive in their life, such as self-acceptance, autonomy, goal progress, physical health, resilience, and general mental fitness.
Leveraging your strengths, which is a key aim of our Strengths Circuit program, has many advantages over focussing on correcting your deficits.
OK… let’s dive into the 7 benefits?
- Strengths focussed goals
Character strengths can potentially play a big part in achieving goals! Making big audacious goals usually becomes overwhelming, which sets us up for failure. However, by skilfully planning to achieve small associated incremental goals, the big goals can be achieved.
The VIA Institute on Character identify that: all too often we focus on planning the “what” (the tasks, the dates etc), and we forget the “who”. We forget to consider who we are, at our core, what attributes we have that will help us achieve a goal, and which attributes may create an obstacle.
How does using your top character strengths support this process? By considering your top 3-5-character strengths, and by applying these strengths skilfully within a supported structure, you can not only achieve your desired topic goals but you can realise many unexpected benefits to further applying your unique set of character strengths.
- Career build with character strengths
It is not uncommon to hear the advice to play to your strengths or use your strengths more at work. Researchers have found that you are more likely to have positive experiences at work if you are using at least FOUR of your signature strengths.
What can you do about it?
1 Take 10 minutes to complete the VIA Character Strengths Survey, to identify your top 3-5 strengths.
2 Take time to learn the nature of your top 3-5 strengths and how you can start to leverage them effectively at work.
3 Have self-awareness around your top 3-5 strengths and consider how you’re regularly using these strengths during a workday? Consciously aim to use each character strength daily and journal your experiences in order to skilfully record how you used them and what you consequently experienced.
- Happy on strengths…
The following strategies are the most effective and well-known happiness boosters in positive psychology. Freely use them for your own joy!
Reflect on your day – write down 3 things that went well and why they went well. This habitualises gratitude and increases the importance of good acts.
Employ one of your top strengths in a new way each day for one week; diarise your gratitude towards others, read this to them or give it to them if you want; practice mindfulness and take a close-up photo of something of beauty each day and send it to a friend; or set goals that are consistent with your life values.
The firing you – Think of a specific time when you were really feeling and operating at your best and feeling your authentic self. Write this story down and/or share this story with someone important in your life.
Savoure the pleasurable experiences from each day, where you noticed yourself using your strengths, for 2-3 minutes, will allow you to maximise their positive effect.
- Character filled life-change
Taking time to reflect on the defining moments in your life, times when a certain thing happened that changed your life trajectory, can greatly enhance your life. This could be a time where you have had to demonstrate either of the strengths of perseverance or hope for instance.
The Defining Moments Exercise:
1 Defining moment – name one defining moment that has had a meaningful impact on you.
2 Character strengths – which character strengths did you use in this situation and how did you express them?
3 Identity – how has this moment shaped who you are or contributed to your identity? How has it effected your view of yourself?
4 Courage, Wisdom, Humanity or other virtues – looking at the bigger picture, were you enacting virtues that helped you mobilise your strengths in that moment?
Increasing your savouring will promote the cherishing of impactful moments while enhancing your self-perception by promoting positive memory recall.
- Siri doesn’t know this
New science has broken “the meaning of meaning” into three main types. This is the result of bringing together the key elements of meaning as discussed by philosophers, theologians, researchers, and other experts over the centuries (Martela & Steger, 2016). The three types of meaning that emerged are: Coherence, Significance, and Purpose.
Coherence – is about making sense of things or looking for patterns to make life more predictable. For example, as you look at the life you have lived so far, how do you make sense of the good things? Why have they occurred?
Using your strengths to build coherence: Use the strength of perspective to help you step back and take in the wider view of your life, so you don’t get lost in details and stressors. Judgment can be employed to analyse your beliefs about the world and the people in it and curiosity to question and explore your life meaning.
Significance – is about feeling that you matter and that life matters. It means to not only sense and know the value of your life but to feel that appreciation for yourself, others, and the world in a deep way.
Using your strengths to build significance: You may have previously turned to your heart-based character strengths of love, gratitude, kindness, and forgiveness. Acknowledge which character strengths that you value most. Consider the importance of your character strengths throughout your life (past, present, future).
Purpose – is about having important life goals and working to achieve them.
Using your strengths to build purpose: considering one of your most meaningful life goals, which strengths will be the pathway to these goals. For example, perhaps kindness is your pathway to your goal of being more charitable or perseverance is your key pathway to that certification in becoming a helping professional.
Explore how you can use your character strengths for the highest good.
- Tune in to your strengths
When you understand your unique set of character strengths you can start to really tune in to how you can make a difference through finding your true, value driven, calling.
Creativity – the world may need your ideas, your strategies, your best coping tools. Curiosity – the world needs you to talk curiously, with interest, to those around you, to let them express themselves and release their burdens. Judgment – the world needs your ways of thinking rationally and balanced, showing the many voices in our heads that can counterbalance the inner voices of panic and anxiety. Bravery – the world needs your bravery—the courage to help someone you’ve never helped, the courage to dust off the strengths you’ve allowed to erode, the courage to see the world anew despite fear.
Character strengths are critical right now in our world. They are not a trivial thing, they are tough-loaded, resilience-based, and crucial in times of adversity.
- Parenting the strengths
What is the “strengths reality” you have been potentially missing? Understanding a child’s character strengths (strengths-based parenting) can empower you to consciously reframe situations and behaviours so a new, positive perspective can be established. This is a highly effective approach when you inevitably experience stress as a parent (or teacher). Reframing situations can be as simple as asking yourself: Is there another way I might look at this situation, in the context of character strengths?
Flipping your perception – Sometimes this effective reframing simply involves replacing one word in your thought process. A stubborn child becomes a perseverant child. Your distractible son (male student) becomes your highly curious son. Your wild and hyperactive daughter (female student) becomes your zestful daughter.
An exercise in strengths-based parenting: Pick any worrying or frustrating behaviour you are witnessing in your child, or any issue or struggle you are having with them. So…put on your strengths goggles and take a fresh look at the situation. What character strengths is your child imperfectly using? Be careful to not narrow your attention when you get upset or anxious as this can cause us to miss a substantial portion of reality.
Recapping – Firstly: Be mindfully aware to consider how you react when your child (a student) does something you don’t like. Next: Pause and reframe when you get frustrated with your child’s behaviour and consider the positive, character strengths based alternative that they may be demonstrating? Finally: Be acutely aware of your own values as you need to be mindful of whether you are perpetuating a negative bias from your parents, for instance. Most of all, a knowledge of character strengths can enable you to enjoy more positive, skilful relationships with your child or student.
Three key qualities of character strengths to consider. They must be…
Essential: the strength feels essential to who a person is. Effortless: when enacted, the behaviour associated with these strengths feels natural and effortless. Energizing: using the strength uplifts you and leaves you feeling happy and ready to take on more.
You must be careful to notice your own, and other people’s, top strengths so you can find ways to let them loose in your life.
Take the first step in enjoying these outcomes!
At Get Mentally Fit, many of our programs and services are directly informed by the fundamental concepts of positive psychology, including character strengths and the measurable fundamentals of Mental Toughness. Contact us to enquire into how we can support you to reliably measure, and skillfully enhance, your current mental fitness.
If you enjoyed reading about and participating in this fortnight’s activity, feel free to share the links to our articles’ page and the A-Z Facebook group with friends, family, other interested people or colleagues.
Want to learn more?
We have deliberately divided the further learning sections, each fortnight, into three tiers of research (difficulty).
- Lounging on the beach or heading out for a casual snorkel – light research.
- Air-tank assisted buddy dive – more depth in the research and moderately challenging.
- Deep dive into the splendorous depths – more rigorous academic research and an essential piece to mental fitness.
*Lounging on the beach or heading out for a casual snorkel…
Articles and Video
*Air-tank assisted buddy dive…
VIA Institute on Character – What the Research Says About Character Strengths
*Deep dive into the splendorous depths…
Achieve Your Potential with Positive Psychology by Tim Lebon (2014)
Flourish by Dr Martin Seligman (2011)