IN TIMES LIKE THESE, remember your strengths!
Like many of you, I am working from home, sharing space with three young people who are frustrated, sad, disappointed, angry, moody and exhausted. And the extension of yet another lockdown, with increased restrictions, felt like a massive punch in the guts!
Covid has cornered us all, and let's face it, and nobody likes to be put in a corner. However, we need to remember our strengths during challenging times like these, especially when we don't feel strong.
Research has shown us repeatedly that when we use our character strengths, we boost positive emotions – and when we do that, we feel more energy, more inspired, more favourably about life. In other words, strengths fuel us forward.
What are Character Strengths?
Character Strengths are the positive parts of your personality that impact how you think, feel and behave. Scientists have identified 24 character strengths that you can express. By taking the VIA Survey, you will discover your unique character strengths profile.
So, if you have been asking yourselves, how are we going to get through this? If you would like to learn more about strengths and identify your Signature Strengths, take the free VIA Survey and get a list of your 24 strengths in order, based on your values and responses.
So, let's zero in on ways we can intentionally use our strengths to help ourselves and those around us. Here are some ideas framed around the 24 VIA Strengths. Take a look at the list below. Try any of the suggestions for yourself, with family or friends. We have much to gain by combating this challenge with an infusion of our strengths.
Playing to our strengths is critically important during challenging times, like now, as we deal with lockdown #6, remote learning and life during the pandemic. And in particular, strengths, can feed the others. Research shows that when we use our strengths, we boost positive emotions – and when we do that, we feel more energy, more inspired, more favourably about life. In other words, strengths fuel us forward
24 Ways to Use Your Strengths
Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence: Go on a beauty hunt wherever you are. Look at or think of your favourite masterpiece – a painting, a building, a song, a garden, a flower, your dog's eyes, your clean bathroom. Revel in beauty and excellence! Whenever you need a boost, look around, or look within. Discover the awe.
Bravery: Bravery comes in many forms. Sometimes it is summoned like a warrior. Other times, like a shy child, it needs a nudge from within. Look for ways that you, or those around you, leave a personal comfort zone, pushing boundaries for a purpose you believe in. Help-seeking is one of the bravest actions someone can take.
Love: Think about someone you care about. If possible, let them know you love them now! Take time to write a note, explain why you love this person and care about them. Deliver it to them, or read it to them. In return, when others are giving you love, kindness, accept it with an open heart — as you would want them to do with you!
Creativity: Make something by hand today. Whether it is a meal or a birthday card, create something new. If ideas come quickly to you, push yourself in a new direction. Before you are about to do something, consider if there is a different way to do it. Have fun with this approach. Are you filled with ideas? Consider this list of strengths and come up with more applications for yourself and others. Share them.
Curiosity: What is something you have always wondered about? Make a list of your questions, and then dive in! Search for answers online, or better yet, ASK SOMEONE who might know the answer. Watch a documentary about something new to you. Feed your curious mind!
Fairness: Do you have a cause that speaks to your heart? Write about why it matters to you. How can you help bring more awareness to this cause? Need inspiration? Read a biography of one of your activist role models.
Forgiveness: Take some time and think about this. Is there someone you are ready to forgive? If so, send them a note. If YOU are the one who needs self-forgiveness, this is a good time to give yourself props for the things you have done well, for trying hard to do what is right, for all the things you have done for others.
Gratitude: What/Who are you SO grateful for today? What would you really miss if it were not around? Make a list – in writing or in your mind. Think about all of the people involved in getting you what you need. Take time to appreciate how many things we have that have been created and cared for by so many people working hard. Think about your body and all it does for you – how hard it works for you.
Honesty: Try saying only what you really mean. Is it easy? Difficult? Watch a movie about one of your heroes. Look for ways that they are true to themselves. Or watch a movie like Being There about a man who is 100% honest, yet others only hear what they want to hear from him.
Hope: What makes life worth living? This is one of the great questions of the ages. What examples do you see around you? In history? Literature? Music? Find examples of how things have gotten better after tough times? What books, movies, songs inspire you? Make a list. Share it with others. Ask others for their list. Keep it handy!
Humility: Act for the action's sake, not accolades. You work behind the scenes, keeping things running smoothly. What do you see that needs tending? Someone needing help who is afraid to ask? Find ways to help them get what they need with minimal exposure.
Humour: People need to laugh and lighten up, even in heavy times! If humour and playfulness come naturally to you, you have a lot to offer others to help find some release. Share jokes, ask your friends or others in the community about their favourite comedies. Watch them. Play games like Charades that get you moving. One of the benefits of learning not to take ourselves TOO seriously is laughter, which is GOOD for our bodies and souls.
Judgment: Facing an issue, a challenge? What's the first answer that comes to mind? What's the next? What might be missing in your assumption? Find another way to view the situation. Need inspiration? Watch a movie like "Sliding Doors" that takes multiple viewpoints.
Kindness: Is there someone in your house or neighbourhood who could use a little help? What can you do for them? Large or small. If no one comes to mind, try an anonymous gesture like allowing someone to go ahead of you in line at the supermarket.
Leadership: Is it time for you to step up and take the lead? Are you good at guiding others to step out and take part? Leaders are needed at home, at work, or in a public setting that calls for action (or calm). "Be the change you want to see in the world," said Gandhi. If you can lead, you can help others do what they need in these challenging times. Organize volunteer chains, facilitate open discussions, help others set and achieve goals. Share your tips with others. Celebrate team victories.
Love of Learning: Do a deep dive into something you are passionate about. Learn more! (This is different from curiosity, which can jump from one thing to the next without judgement; this is diving into one topic and learning much more about it.)
Perseverance: Is there a project or something else you have meant to finish? This is the time to devote to it! Set the timer and finish one of your items on your To-Do list. Or, if diligence is a natural strength of yours, combine this strength with kindness and help someone else finish their task!
Perspective: Is there an area that you know well and feel confident sharing? Do you have insights or resources that might help others? Is there a forum where you can share your perspective with others? Find a place to share this experience and expertise with others who may benefit. You might also find some new people to share this interest with!
Prudence: Aha! In this time of coronavirus, it is precious to use the strength of prudence and caution. What are those extra steps you need to protect yourself and others? Read guidelines from global experts. Share what you learn. If these strengths come naturally to you, find ways to make it super easy to be clean and careful. Help others be mindful, too. Think of the long-term reasons why caution pays. Share your insights.
Self-Regulation: This strength is one of the most challenging for many of us. Set reminders on your phone so you remember to do what is good for you, like washing your hands, drinking plenty of water, meditating for stress relief. Be sure to add time for the things that feed your mind/body/soul to keep your entire being in good shape. Share your ideas and tools with others.
Social Intelligence: Read the situation. Who is around you? How are they doing? Are things running OK? Is there anything you can do to assist if help or changes are needed? If all is smooth, feed this strength of yours with a novel or movie with complex characters. Harriet, the Spy, is a young adult novel with a heroine who misreads many of her people. Juno is a movie about a 16-year-old female who reads those around her with astute maturity.
Spirituality: Take time to look at the bigger picture. Think about how we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. What gives you comfort? Religious texts? Meditation? Does a nature walk? Find time to connect with your soul and whatever makes you feel connected to others, to life and God.
Teamwork: Pitch in. Share. Encourage those around you— or far away – who are needing support. This is a time for connecting and working together to build strength and hope. Enjoy being part of a team working for the greater good.
Zest: Put your energy to use! Combine your pleasures. Choose a few of your favourite songs, play them, dance! Ask others around you to do the same and have a happy dance party — gather together on a video sharing platform like FaceTime or Zoom. Always take time to DO something that makes you feel good – that good feeling is contagious!
Things to Remember
We each possess all of these strengths. We use some more naturally than others. These are considered our signature strengths, and when we intentionally use them, we feel more energized. Your children will almost certainly have done the strength survey, so you immediately have the foundation for a rich conversation and potential renewed connection with each other. Now, there's a win/win.
So, in times like these, when we need all the energy and positive action we can get, let's focus on ways we can intentionally use our strengths to help ourselves and each other.
"A person's underlying outlook can undoubtedly affect how he or she responds to life's adversities, threats, or dangers. For example, an attitude of kindness and compassion brings a sense of self-confidence and inner strength. It reduces fear. Often our response to a dangerous situation and ability to deal with fear depends more on our outlook and personal characteristics than on the nature of the situation itself."Dalai Lama 16.08.2021
Acknowledgements, further reading & additional resources
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Let's Talk Body Confident Children and Teens
For: Parents of primary and secondary age children.
Covers: Power of positive role modelling | Reducing toxic body talk | Developing resilience to social media pressures | What to do if concerned.
Date: Wednesday, 1st Sept 2021
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Date: Thursday, 9th Sept 2021
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