Happiness Strengths: Another Path to Feeling Good

    The majority of us, whether we admit it or not, want happiness. A survey of ten thousand people from forty-eight countries found that happiness was more important to them than success, intelligence, knowledge, maturity, wisdom, relationships, wealth, or meaning in life (Oishi, Diener, and Lucas 2007). The good news is that character strengths seem to go along with happiness like your foot gliding into a cozy shoe. Study after study—across different groups of people—began to show that five character strengths are most aligned with happiness, even causing happiness (Buschor, Proyer, and Ruch 2013; Park, Peterson, and Seligman 2004; Proyer, Ruch, and Buschor 2013). There’s now been enough attention paid to these five strengths that some researchers have dubbed them “the happiness strengths”: • Zest—feeling energetic and full of vitality • Hope—feeling optimistic and focused on the future • Love—feeling warm and being closely connected to others • Gratitude—feeling appreciative and expressing thanks regularly • Curiosity—feeling interested and wanting to explore new topics and situations These happiness strengths, all of which reside in you, serve as another pathway for you to build your happiness. Let’s examine them, one by one. Exploring Zest What number is zest in your rank-order profile of strengths on the VIA Survey? When do you feel most energetic and zestful?

    Lower Strengths: Not Weaknesses, Still Strengths  
    In looking at your VIA Survey results, it is normal (and very tempting) to spend time lamenting or feeling upset by your lower (also called lesser) strengths. And you may automatically judge your lower strengths as your weaknesses. Our negativity bias is always looking for flaws or problems in ourselves. It’s only natural to find yourself looking at your lowest strengths and exclaiming, “I don’t have any self-regulation!” “I’m not at all creative,” or “Being able to forgive others is a big weakness of mine.” Of course, it’s possible that these are weaknesses, but that’s not the best way to approach this strength category. Here’s why: the VIA Survey is a test of strengths, some of which you have more of—it is not a test of your weaknesses, problems, or psychopathology. Since the test is not measuring weaknesses, we cannot come to a conclusion that the test is not offering. To refer to your lesser strengths as weaknesses is to get locked into a deficit-based mind-set, viewing yourself as something “to be corrected” or something that is “flawed” or “wrong.” Instead, it’s more productive to consider all 24 strengths as your own, with some of them coming forth more forcefully or adeptly within you than others. In regard to your lower strengths, it is possible you have given them less attention over the years or don’t value them as much as your other strengths. All that said, lesser strengths are important, and research has revealed that they provide another way to boost well-being when you focus on them (Proyer et al. 2015; Rust, Diessner, and Reade 2009). Consider the character strengths that are lowest in your VIA Survey profile. Though there’s not a magic number of lesser strengths, focus for now on your bottom five. (If you’ve not yet taken the test online, rank your strengths yourself using either the table of them in the introduction to this book or the table in this chapter.) Which of these strengths do you think least describes who you are? Which are least energizing to you? Which ones would you have to exert substantial effort to bring forth? Write down three to five of your lower strengths:
    How does it feel to call these “lower” strengths? Some people feel disappointed that these strengths appear at the bottom of their profile and wish they were higher up. Others are selfcritical and think that they’re not being as strong as they could be. Still others are accepting of or content with this grouping when viewed alongside their higher-ranking strengths—it feels accurate to them. What is your reaction? Pick one of your lower strengths and one domain of your life (work, family, social, community). Describe how you have used that strength, with at least some success, in that domain. Lower strength: Domain: Past use:
    Phasic Strengths: When Do You Rise to the Occasion? As mentioned earlier, our phasic strengths are nonsignature strengths that we exhibit when a situation calls for it. We are likely to express our signature strengths strongly in a wide range of situations, but phasic strengths come out only in particular situations. To be a phasic strength, you not only express it in the necessary situation, but you express it strongly. In fact, someone observing you who doesn’t know your profile might perceive the phasic strength you are expressing as your unique signature! The Broadway hit musical Hamilton reminds us to “rise up” and take “your shot.” Similarly, a phasic strength means we rise up to the occasion. We see a situation present itself in front of us and we take our shot. We bring forward an important part of ourselves. Imagine you are at a town hall meeting with about a hundred community members present. Several people vocally express an opinion different from your own. Then one woman, who is typically quiet, stands up and expresses the counterpoint argument in a strong yet appropriate way for all to hear. She then asks, “Who’s with me?” Twenty hands go up. One of this woman’s phasic strengths might be bravery because she’s using it strongly when the situation calls for it.
    When my wife is away for an evening and I’m alone watching my three young children, my prudence (not a signature strength) emerges. I become highly organized and planful with my kids, and I accomplish the necessary routine tasks for each of them, as well as some additional fun activities, all within a short time frame. In such situations, it appears that prudence rises up to become a phasic strength for me. How about you? As you reflect on your nonsignature strengths, consider these questions: • Have you risen to the occasion with strong perseverance when you needed to complete a project? • Turned to curiosity instead of anxiety when you felt overwhelmed by stress? • Brought forth significant zest every time you had a presentation to give? • Displayed exemplary self-regulation/self-control when your child repeatedly disagreed with you? • When have you risen up? Write down your observations:
    Claiming Your Phasic Strengths Think of a recent time when you were stressed. Consider your actions and how you approached the situation. What was most effective about how you handled the situation? Perhaps you resolved the situation, managed it, or at least got through it. Take note of the character strength you brought forth the most in this situation. Do you typically bring forth this strength in a clear and strong way at difficult times? If yes, it might be a phasic strength. Explore that possibility here.
    A Point of Clarification: Other Strengths Matter Too! We’ve been exploring your character strengths, both your signature strengths and those that don’t show up as strongly in you. But there are, of course, additional elements that go into the unique makeup of every human being. First, there are many physical qualities that describe us that have nothing to do with our character strengths, such as our height, weight, eye color, hair type, and blood pressure. Then there are personality qualities that are distinct from character strengths, such as our level of neuroticism and our extraversion/introversion level. And then there are other kinds of human strengths different from character strengths, such as our talents/abilities, skills, interests, values, and resources (Niemiec 2018). To clarify these areas further, review the categories below. As you do so, it’s important to understand the connections character strengths have with each area, so examples are provided for each. It is your character strengths that help you activate the other strength categories. In order to get your talent for music or sport to soar, for instance, you need to activate your character strengths of perseverance and self-regulation to devote many hours to disciplined practice and you need to call on your strength of hope to envision the future. And when you connect with any of your external resources, you are likely tapping into your social intelligence, kindness, and fairness, among other character strengths. 
    Wadifa Club
    writer and blogger, founder of Dog food planet .

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