The strength of knowing your strengths – enter the realm of positive psychology

When was the last time you stopped to think about what is going right in your life? Or thought about what are your unique personal qualities that other people might be drawn to? Right now, grab a pen and paper and jot down three qualities that you see as your strengths. Or jot down those qualities that others might identify as your strengths. Go on, it will be time well spent.

How did you go? Congratulate yourself for taking time to get to know your strengths!!

If you often focus on what’s not going well in your life or on things that you may not yet have in your life (i.e that illustrious career, new car, perfect relationship with ‘the one’) then you may be painting an incomplete picture of yourself and undermining a more ‘holistic’ perspective of your satisfaction with life.

Positive psychology is the branch of psychology that promotes wellbeing and the creation of a satisfying life filled with meaning, purpose, pleasure, engagement, positive relationships and accomplishments. It isn’t about being happy all the time, but rather a branch of psychology that seeks to understand what helps people to navigate life’s inevitable challenges more effectively and to enjoy life despite upsets. One way to pursue life satisfaction is to know your strengths and utilise them often.

Life satisfaction is a measure of wellbeing and how you feel about where you are going in the future, in terms of mood, satisfaction with your relationships with others, self – concepts, and self-perceived coping ability to deal with daily life. Regularly contemplating your unique personal strengths and using them in your daily life can impact on your overall perceived life satisfaction.

Strategies to enhance your satisfaction with life

1. Keep a gratitude diary – each day record three things that went well and why. So, answer this question…….what are three things that are going well in your life or three things you are grateful for in your life today? What are three personal qualities or strengths you are grateful for at present? A practical way to incorporate this into your life is to keep the gratitude diary next to your bed and fill it in before going to sleep.

2. Perform small acts of kindness – at least five times a week in fact! Giving feels good. The act of giving promotes positive feedback from others, strengthens your connection to other people and can help you to feel good about yourself (and remind you of your strengths and good things about you – getting the hang of this now?)

3. Identify and seek out opportunities to use your strengths – aha, here it is again! Take the time to think about your personal strengths and then use them at work, in family life, sporting endeavours, and in your everyday life.

4. Cultivate mindfulness in your life – turn off that mindless automatic pilot (i.e. when we act and interact without much thinking) that so often takes us away from living the life that is important to us, and learn to cultivate mindful action and mindful attention to the present moment. You can make more informed choices about how to live your life when you are keenly aware of your experience of the present moment and this fosters increased psychological wellbeing and life satisfaction. Take mindful action in your life by utilising your personal strengths – such as your drawing on your qualities of determination and persistence to complete difficult work projects, or utilising resilience in the face of adversity.

5. Invest time and energy into your relationships – nurture your relationships with friends and family because it’s strong personal relationships with others that has THE MOST SIGNIFICANT IMPACT on your overall satisfaction with life…….not financial earnings or status. Spend time with people often and build relationships with them that are important to you.

6. Seek out a variety of pleasurable experiences – novelty is the key with this one. Aim to try new and novel experiences to spread out the pleasurable events over time, rather than repeatedly participating in the same pleasure and forming habits that don’t provide new information to the brain. Enhancing a person’s experience of pleasurable life events is key to optimal life satisfaction. Learn to savour the pleasurable experiences as well – for example, create memories in your mind or digitally, mindfully pay attention to the sense of pleasure as you experience it or share the experience with others.

7. Forgive others and yourself – write a letter to someone who has hurt you or angered you in some way with the purpose of forgiving them. Let go of the anger and resentment and stop giving up your precious life persistently ruminating about being ‘wronged’ by them. Learning to forgive is important in the pursuit of life satisfaction, and can remind you of your unique personal strengths in overcoming inevitable upsets in relationships.

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