NB: This article forms part of a series on habits for happiness to help you live your best life. The initial 3 habits are foundations for a happy life and set the framework for the 12 habits of happiness.
You can read about foundation happiness habits 1 and 2 here and here.
It’s likely, if you are a reader of this site, you are a woman working hard in a profession. You may be a mother of one or many children. You are a high achiever. This probably means you use your brain and thoughts in high level ways, setting goals and analyzing how well you are doing.
In this process of planning, doing and thinking, it’s possible you may come across areas you want to improve. These are things you want to stop doing or things you want to do more of to build your life, success and happiness.
Somewhere in this process, we begin to notice the things we don’t do so well and want to get better at. This is ok when we want to learn and grow in an area of life or work. But when we stay in this zone of the ‘what’s not right’ versus the ‘what is good’, we notice the creep of defeat and exhaustion swimming through our emotions and thoughts.
If this creeping worn out feeling of ‘not quite successful enough’ envelops your day, let’s consider a different way: finding and using your strengths.
I’m reading a book at the moment by Rick Hanson titled ‘Resilient’. The book is about positive neuroplasticity and developing 12 vital inner strengths. If you would like to take a look at Rick Hanson’s work, you can view his website here.
With my article this week I’d like to encourage you with the following words from the book’s summary:
These Days it’s hard to count on the world outside. So it’s vital to grow strengths inside such as grit, gratitude, and compassion- the keys to resilience and to lasting well-being in a changing world.Citation: Resilient by Rick Hanson, PhD
Being strong in the assurance of your personality, and what is working, allows weaknesses to tag behind. Mistakes and shortcomings are in your peripheral vision. You give them a cursory hello and set off with purpose and joy.
This is a habit that wakes you up with hope. It brings joy. It gives contentment. It clarifies what you love and aim for. It removes the clutter from your thoughts. It simplifies your life. It brings peace to the day.
This habit requires thinking and doing to benefit your life. The thinking part is becoming aware. The doing is using the habit.
The habit of living to your strengths is a way of living. But what happens if our minds are pre-occupied with our weaknesses?
Traditional psychology has focused on resolving weakness and healing pathology. There is merit and importance in this for mental illness and dysfunction in daily life, however the discipline of positive psychology promotes wellbeing and adds to traditional psychology. Positive psychology asks questions such as;
Positive psychology posits that simply removing suffering doesn’t automatically create wellness and happiness.
I think we need awareness of weakness and strength. When we acknowledge our weakness, this makes us human and people relate to us. We notice our suffering and find ways to relieve it. We Seek the professional help we need for trauma and distress, and at the same time, we build happiness habits that grow the activities and abilities we have to increase our wellbeing and love of life. This is where strengths come in. The beginning is preparing our minds for strength.
Rick Hanson describes strengths as “mental resources like determination, self-worth, and kindness” which make us resilient.
He explains the impact of using our mental resources is strong because we can’t control our bodies or world as well as we can our thoughts and metal capacities.
An article at positive psychology program defines our strengths as:
inherent potentials that influence our thoughts, emotions and actions. They define who we are and determine our uniqueness.
But why do this?
We may understand in our heads we have strengths and potential for living as the best version of ourselves. We’ve achieved academically and constructed a career with our best effort. But living aware of this can be challenging when we are busy or stressed. We need a heart awareness of our strengths. This is not just “I’m good at…” but “I’m inherently gifted for …”. It’s is a deeper understanding of our innate “who we are” versus only the “ what I can do”.
My hope is when you bring your strengths to the surface, you will live with greater purpose, clarity and hope.
In 2016, researchers at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands looked at what preserves wellbeing during times of stress, anxiety or depression. This is what they found about the benefits of using strengths to stay resilient and happy:
The problem is, when we are battling negative emotions it’s harder keeping our sense of humor, maintaining our activities, and enjoying people around us. But the research above suggests these are the things we need to keep doing. To help with this, aim to discover your strengths.
An article from Positive Psychology Program describes strengths as your areas of opportunity discovered through the challenges of life. Below I have adapted my own list based on my life and things I’ve found to build my own hope and effort. But I have added in some from the resource above. This is not exhaustive and I encourage you to add to your own list of strengths.
 Bos EH, Snippe E, de Jonge P, Jeronimus BF (2016) Preserving Subjective Wellbeing in the Face of Psychopathology: Buffering Effects of Personal Strengths and Resources. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0150867. doi:10. 1371/jorunal.pone.015867
 https://positivepsychologyprogram.com (for other articles on strengths)
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I’m the creator of Minutes to Happy and your go-to counsellor and wellness coaching companion.
I’m here to guide you in becoming your bravest self (no matter what wellness worries and chronic health challenges are plonked in your path).