When it comes to creating more happiness in life, experts usually tell us to add more things—get a dog, build a friendship, add a gratitude list, etc. But, what about taking things away? Subtraction. Could that make us happier?
And on and on my thinking would go.
The science of positive psychology has revealed several character strengths that are particularly connected with higher levels of happiness. Over and over again studies show these five strengths might be considered “the happiness strengths”:
Of course not. But as viewers we don’t get to see what happens next in these formulaic Hollywood films. There are exceptions.
Enter Before Midnight, a new romance-drama starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, and directed by auteur filmmaker, Richard Linklater. This is the third installment of films made about 10 years apart and follow two characters, Jesse and Celine, after their original chance encounter on a train heading to Vienna (see Before Sunrise and Before Sunset).
These films are known for engaging dialogue. Conversations that are “real,” poignant, and interesting. Characters share themselves, their ideas, and their opinions openly. They attack, praise, cajole, and surprise one another. We are carried through love and intimacy, thoughts about their relationship origins and life philosophies, the fruits and challenges of long-term commitment, and tense arguments.
Before Midnight is a quintessential “dialogue film.” This helps it be an outstanding “teacher” of positive relationships.
I enjoy bringing my strengths to my work. I express my curiosity as I open up each new e-mail message, I express hope as I help clients work through struggles, and I express love (warmth and genuineness) with my colleagues as we discuss new ideas and process daily work happenings. This fills me with a greater passion and commitment to my work.
How about you? Do you express your highest character strengths each day at your job?
The research has been clear:
What are your strengths?
What is best about you?
What qualities make up who you are?
Too many times in my work as a clinical psychologist these questions would be met by blank stares from the person in front of me. And, when the question was answered at all, the response was something vague like “I like baseball” or “I’m good at cooking.” This is consistent with survey research that has found that 2/3 of people do not have a meaningful awareness of their strengths.
There are 2 general levels to strengths-spotting:
New research from the science of positive psychology has found a number of practical exercises you can do to boost your happiness and decrease your depression.
Choose one of the following 7 exercises and practice it for 1 week:
There are many positive psychology exercises individuals can practice to boost their well-being and help them achieve their goals. The Best Possible Self exercise is one of the stronger happiness exercises because it has good research support (see below) and people tend to find the exercise captivating and at the least, illuminating.
This exercise has been shown to boost people’s positive emotions, happiness levels, optimism, hope, improve coping skills, and elevate positive expectations about the future. It involves two basic steps:
Thich Nhat Hanh offers five mindfulness trainings that help individuals bring more depth, purpose and meaning into their lives.
Keep in mind:
This blog entry focuses on the second mindfulness training, called True Happiness. It begins: