How do we manage this stress? We should look to our strengths.

The future of America is a significant source of stress for most citizens, a new study by the American Psychological Association finds.

The survey reviewed the most common stress-management tools that Americans are currently using. I highlight these tools and weave in suggestions for using your character strengths to help you make the most of the strategy:

  1. Exercising or walking: a great way to use your strength of zest, and also your appreciation of beauty for your environment.
  2. Reading: tap your love of learning and curiosity by picking up some new books, fiction or non-fiction.
  3. Spending time with family and friends: any of the 24 character strengths can be harnessed to improve our relationships. When you spend time with close others, try bringing forth extra levels of social intelligenceforgiveness, and fairness in your interactions.
  4. Watching TV: practice spotting the strengths of characters in the sitcom, series, or movie you are watching. What are the characters’ signature strengths?
  5. Praying: clearly this involves bringing your spirituality strength forward, but perhaps also you might infuse your prayer-life with creativity (mix up your approach), gratitude (a deliberate practice of thanks), and critical thinking (being open to other points of view).

Additional stress management tools, although not mentioned in the APA survey, include:

  1. Mindfulness: short-circuit your stressful nature with the mindful pause. This strategy is being used by millionsof people and requires two simple steps you can do anytime during the day – a.) Pause to feel your in breath and out breath for 15 seconds; b.) ask yourself which character strength might you bring forth in the moment.
  2. Gratitude practice: there are many practices but the most scientific and popular is to count your blessings at the end of each day. Name three things you are grateful for that occurred during the day and ponder why they happened.
  3. Kindness practice: the “pay-it-forward” effect has scientific evidence to support it. When someone does something – anything – nice for you, pay the kindness forward by offering a thoughtful action to 1 to 3 people that day.
  4. Curiosity practice: choose an activity you find boring or dull that you have to do each week or each day. While you do the activity, pay attention to three novel/unique features (e.g., use your five senses). This activity will help you enjoy the activity more and will expand your curiosity.
  5. Signature strengths practice: there are always new ways we can use our best qualities and research shows doing so provides a lasting boost to happiness and a reduction of depression. Select one of your best qualities. Expand how you think about this strength. Allow yourself to use it differently each day.

 

References

Baker, W., & Bulkley, N. (2014). Paying it forward versus rewarding reputation: Mechanisms of generalized reciprocity. Organization Science, 25(5), 1493–1510. http://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2014.0920

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377–389. http://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.84.2.377

Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Wyss, T. (2013). Strength-based positive interventions: Further evidence for their potential in enhancing well-being and alleviating depression. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 1241–1259. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9380-0

Langer, E. J. (1997). The power of mindful learning. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Niemiec, R. M. (2014a). Mindfulness and character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.

Pressman, S. D., Kraft, T. L., & Cross, M. P. (2015). It’s good to do good and receive good: The impact of a “pay it forward” style kindness intervention on giver and receiver well-being. Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(4), 293–302. http://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2014.965269

Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Buschor, C. (2013). Testing strengths-based interventions: A preliminary study on the effectiveness of a program targeting curiosity, gratitude, hope, humor, and zest for enhancing life satisfaction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(1), 275–292. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9331-9

Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410–421. http://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.60.5.410