Ending Your Day with Strengths

    At the end of a stressful day, we often want to put it behind us and simply forget about it. But you can take a different approach, even when your day was loaded with stress, upsetting emotions, and body tension. Although that stress is a reality, another part of that reality is that there were a multitude of good things going on during your day as well. These are usually so overshadowed by the stressors, however, that we forget that the positives are always there. I therefore encourage you to “tend to the end.” Pay attention to the end of your day by pausing to appreciate the fullness of your day. Over and over, research studies have shown that reflecting at the end of your day on the good things that happened—in many cases, at least three—is linked with an increase in longer-term happiness and a decrease in depression (Gander et al. 2013; Seligman et al. 2005). This activity, commonly known as “counting your blessings,” is a strategy for boosting the strength of gratitude. Gratitude is a connection lubricant. On a basic level, it completes a relationship transaction—you did something nice for me, and I am acknowledging that and showing appreciation. On a deeper level, when offered with genuineness, gratitude enhances our connection with the world, ourselves, and others. For your strengths practice, download this worksheet at http://www.newharbinger .com/42808 and try a gratitude practice for one week. Each night that week, look back on your day and make note of the good things that occurred and why they seemed to occur. Here are a few pointers: be specific with each example and get into the nuances of the situation or the interaction you had. This is more powerful than simply noting, I’m grateful for my health, my family, and my friends—that doesn’t say much about who you are. Also, try not to repeat yourself during the week; come up with new, specific examples each day. And if you’re motivated to do this for longer than one week, then certainly do so! Day of the Week Three Blessings or Good Things How Each Good Thing Came About What Character Strengths Did You (or Others) Use? Sample 1. My spouse rubbed my back for a few minutes this morning before work. 2. A stranger held the door for me as I was entering the building. 3. When I got home from work, one of my kids came running up to me and gave me a big hug. 1. I was feeling worried about my busy day, and my spouse understood this and felt my tense shoulders so rubbed them for me. 2. She must have noticed I was struggling to carry the large box and went out of her way to help me. 3. When I arrived, I yelled out, “I’m home” and I smiled at my kids. This prompted their enthusiasm, which I really appreciated after a long day. 1. It seemed to cause me to experience self-regulation. I felt in control of my emotions. 2. I saw kindness in that person. I felt the urge to be kind shortly after that, and I noticed I was extra nice and caring toward my receptionist. 3. Love. I felt loved and expressed warmth and love through touch.
    As you practice bringing attention to gratitude (and your other character strengths), it expands. Imagine if you practiced this routinely every day for a whole year. You would have noticed and tapped into your gratitude strength over a thousand times! That would be a solid and strong habit.
    Review Your Day of Strengths Now take a moment to look at your strengths practices as they’ve unfolded from the beginning of your day to the end. Get a closer look at what stands out by answering the questions that follow. How did your day go? What was it like to bring strengths to the beginning, middle, and end of your day?
    Strengths Planning for Your Positive Habit Now that you’ve gotten a chance to experiment with some strengths practices throughout your day, you might be feeling energized to make a strengths plan.
    Your positive habit is far more likely to be successful if you keep some research-backed tips in mind as you make your plan: (1) set your intention, or goal, and list the obstacles that might get in the way; (2) enlist the support of others; and (3) set up a positive reinforcement loop. Name Your Strength Intention and Foresee the Challenges What is the positive habit you would like to set as a regular part of your life? When deciding, you might find it helpful to learn what happened with Cal, a business executive in his thirties, who was very excited to discover all of his signature strengths. So he decided to set one new goal for each strength, and he began taking action immediately with all of them. Things went pretty well at first, but after about one week, Cal’s stress at work began to get to him and the five strengths goals he was trying to implement became a burden. He gave them all up. He did nothing with strengths for a while. A few months later, Cal returned to review his strengths goals. His excitement reignited, but this time, he decided to focus on boosting only one signature strength. He set a plan and kept to it for over a year. It was a strong habit. He attributed his success to having a laser focus on his goal, planning ahead with it, and being able to get his head around the potential barriers to the goal. Research studies support what Cal discovered: too much focus on doing good can backfire. In one study, groups of people who were asked to plan around one virtuous goal were more successful than those who focused on and planned around six virtuous goals (Dalton and Spiller 2012). Researchers have also discovered you are more likely to make your goal or your strength intention a reality if you name the obstacles that might get in the way and how you will handle them if they do (Gollwitzer and Oettingen 2013; Hudson and Fraley 2015). This technique is sometimes called the if-then strategy, where the “if” is the challenge you might encounter and the “then” is how you will confront that challenge successfully. Take a look at the if-then statements Sandi used for her strength intention to count her blessings each night. She knew one of her likely obstacles was being too tired and therefore less motivated to follow through. She also knew she might forget to do the activity. Here’s what Sandi came up with: If I feel too tired at night to do my gratitude journal, then I will use my zest strength and complete it standing up before bed. If I forget to do the activity one day, then the next day I will use my prudence strength to program the alarm on my smartphone to remind me to count my blessings at a specific time each evening.
    Once you feel comfortable with your new strengths intention—this might take a few weeks—you can then repeat the process with another strengths goal. Rediscover Your Support Network Getting support from and connecting with others about your character strengths is a central theme running through this workbook. At the end of each chapter, you’re encouraged to connect with others in some way to keep up with your strengths growth. In chapter 3, one of the central behaviors for working with strengths was the second “A” in ROAD-MAP, for “ask.” And in the last chapter, you solicited new views of your character strengths with the online Character Strengths 360° tool. Here, we will turn directly to support as a key  component of building and keeping up a good habit. Support for our strengths habits comes in many forms, and when it comes to the people in your life who can help you on your journey, there are three types: joiners, cheerleaders, and connectors. JOINERS Joiners are people who want to jump in with you when you’re doing growth work. They get excited at the prospect of improving themselves and developing new insights and are intrigued by the substance and perceived benefits of working on their strengths. Oftentimes, it’s a spouse, significant other, or close friend who’s eager to “play around” with strengths with you. Who will join you in your strengths practice? Who in your life is most curious and zestful when it comes to personal growth? Who’s eager to jump in and try something new?
    CHEERLEADERS Cheerleaders don’t play in the actual game, but they are a constant support, offering encouragement, giving a burst of energy, and cheering and dancing when the team does well. Cheerleaders err on the side of lifting others up. Perhaps there’s someone in your life who is consistently on the sidelines supporting you—a doctor, a coach, a family member, a neighbor, or even your mail carrier? If they’re willing to be your cheerleader, you could help them with one of their own goals in return. Ideally, you’ll want to become your own best cheerleader, empowering yourself with your strengths; nevertheless, we all need someone rooting us on from the sidelines from time to time.
    Wadifa Club
    writer and blogger, founder of Dog food planet .

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