When I came across a concept of Positive Psychology a year ago its ideas really struck a cord with me – using psychology and its findings not only to help cure illnesses or solve problems but to improve one’s quality of life.
Martin Seligman is an inventor of positive psychology and in his book Flourish he describes how it could be used in schools, army and the workplace (to mention a few) to help people lead more fulfilling lives.
One of the main things that I got out of the book is the recognition of one’s individual strengths. Martin claims that we feel more fulfilled (i.e. happier) if we use our strengths. The task here is to make a conscious effort to introduce activities that use them into our daily routines.
It is very easy to discover your own strengths by filling in a questionnaire from the University of Pennsylvania Questionnaire Centre. You can choose the longer version (VIA Survey of Character Strengths) or the really short 24 question version (Brief Strengths Test). I did both and the results were very similar.
My two top strengths were the love of learning and appreciation of beauty. Since I did the test a year ago I started to look for opportunities to use the strengths as much as I can in my day to day life.
So here are the changes I made to use my two core strengths:
- I alerted my route to work to include a brief walk through the park.
- I became a National Trust member.
- At work I’m trying to do as much learning as possible – I have volunteered myself to look after the knowledge exchange project to help colleagues across the team share the good practice (like the TED event I organised). I was proactive in filling training forms and attended a few certified courses.
- I joined Twitter (and discovered the TED account – so many inspirational ideas and new things to learn!)
- I’m now in the process of designing my new garden – that perfectly combines the learning about plants and design and it fits the appreciation of beauty very nicely.
Am I happier as a result? I think the answer has to be yes. The activities I introduced into my life make me feel more energized and “alive”. Would I be doing them without all the positive psychology background? Perhaps, but definitely not to the same extent and not in the conscious manner.