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Use Your Strengths

Tap into your positive traits and enjoy greater happiness.

Duration: 30 mins Frequency: 1x/day Difficulty: Moderate

Time Required

Every day for a week. Time required each day will vary depending on how you choose to exercise your strengths.

How to Do It

  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.

Why It Works

While working to improve shortcomings is important for well-being, it is also important to nurture our strengths and put them to use. Reflecting on these strengths can help remind people that they do have important positive qualities, and this reminder can build confidence and self-esteem—and, in turn, increase happiness. Putting strengths to use can help enhance them, and using strengths in new and different ways can reveal how useful these strengths can be in a range of contexts.

Why You Should Try It

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 exercise 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.

Evidence That It Works

Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421.

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.

Sources

Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., University of California, Riverside
Kristin Layous, Ph.D., Stanford University

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