Focus on Your Strengths Daily Drill

Sometimes we give our weaknesses and limitations more attention than our strengths. Yet research suggests that thinking about personal strengths can increase our happiness and reduce depression.

This drill asks you to identify one of your personal strengths—a positive trait that contributes to your character, such as kindness or perseverance—and consider how you could use it in a new and different way. Recognizing and exercising these strengths can make them stronger and better equip you to meet life’s challenges.

Time required for this drill each day will vary depending on how you choose to exercise your strengths.

  1. Take a moment to think about one of your personal strengths—for instance, creativity, perseverance, kindness, modesty, or curiosity. Consider how you could use this strength today in a new and different way. For example, if you choose the personal strength of perseverance, you might make a list of tasks that you have found challenging recently, then try to tackle each one of them. Or if you choose curiosity, you might attempt an activity that you’ve never tried before.
  2. Describe in writing the personal strength you plan to use today and how you are going to use it. Then, go ahead and do it—act on your strength as frequently as possible throughout the day.
  3. Repeat the steps above every day for a week. You may use the same personal strength across multiple days, or try using a new personal strength each day.
  4. At the end of the week, write about the personal strengths that you focused on during the week and how you used them. Write in detail about what you did, how you felt, and what you learned from the experience.

People tried using a personal strength each day for one week. Compared with those who didn’t try to use a strength—instead they wrote about early memories every day for a week—those who identified and used their strengths reported an increase in happiness and a decrease in symptoms of depression immediately after the one-week experiment, and those changes persisted six months later.

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Photo Drill

Research suggests that finding greater meaning in life helps people cope with stress and improves their overall health and well-being—it’s what makes life feel worth living. But finding meaning in life can sometimes feel like an elusive task. In our day-to-day lives, it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture—we tend to focus more on the mundane than the deeply meaningful.

Yet research suggests that there are potential sources of meaning all around us, from the moments of connection we share with others, to the beauty of nature, to the work that we do and the things we create. This exercise helps you bring these meaningful things into focus—literally. By having you photograph, then write about, things that are meaningful to you, it encourages you to pay closer attention to the varied sources of meaning in your life, large and small, and reflect on why they are important to you.

The time required for this drill is 15 minutes per day for one week to take the photos. One hour to do the writing exercise. While it is not necessary to take a photograph every day, assume that the photography will take you a total of 90 minutes over the course of a week, with an additional hour for the writing.

1.Over the next week, take photographs of things that make your life feel meaningful or full of purpose. These can be people, places, objects, pets. If you are not able to take photos of these things—like if they’re not nearby—you can take photos of souvenirs, reminders, websites, or even other photos. Try to take at least nine photographs.

  1. At the end of the week: If you used a digital camera, upload your photos to a computer. If you used a non-digital camera, have your photos developed.
  2. Then, once you have collected all of your photos and items, take time to look at and reflect on each one. For each photo or item, write down a response to the following question: “What does this photo represent, and why is it meaningful?”

Taking time to recognize and appreciate sources of meaning through photography can help make them more tangible and serve as a reminder of what matters most to you. This greater sense of meaning can, in turn, inspire us to pursue important personal goals and give us a sense of strength and purpose when coping with stressful life events. The use of photography might also benefit people who are more visual than verbal—something for coaches, parents, or teachers to keep in mind as they approach conversations about meaning, purpose, and values in life

Relationships

Having seen the evidence that social connections are key to happiness, we have to ask: Why is that? Why do we enjoy such a mental boost from our social ties? To help answer that question,  we have to explore various reasons why our propensities to affiliate and connect might have proven essential to our survival. These evolutionary insights suggest that the happiness benefits of social connections aren’t just about politeness, or certain cultural norms. They also help us understand our own minds, putting us in a stronger position to identify the choices and activities that will bring us the greatest amount of happiness.

If humans are truly shaped  to connect with others for their survival, therefore humans today would be supplied with the basic tools required for connection. Indeed, there is strong evidence to support this claim. There are dedicated systems for connecting with others in our minds  and bodies, and our most basic communication faculties are geared for expressing and detecting affinitive signals from one another. Taking this idea one step further, we can argue that social connection may be our evolved “baseline,” that is, human minds assume that regular contact with others is the norm, and register other people as a behavioral resource–while the lack of others company is a reason for stress.

Diana

Our relationships can benefit happiness. But of course, not all relationships are the same; what it takes to cultivate, sustain, and reap the benefits from them varies, depending on the type of relationship we’re talking about.

There are particular benefits of specific kinds of relationships: romantic bonds, parent-child bonds, friendships, and acquaintances with people we feel similar and dissimilar to. Different relationships relate differently to happiness. Some interesting questions come to mind: Does getting married boost happiness? Are happy people more likely to get married? Are there other reasons why marriage might (or might not) lead to happiness?