Exercising your character strengths can make for happier holidays
Regarded as a central tool of positive psychology, the VIA Survey of Character Strengths is a simple self-assessment that takes less than 15 minutes to complete and provides a wealth of information to help you understand your core characteristics. It has been taken by more than 5 million people in 190+ countries, and utilized in hundreds of research studies. While most personality tests focus on negative and neutral traits, the VIA Survey focuses on your best qualities across a range of 24 positive attributes. It does not measure weakness.
The survey’s creators assert that although most people’s signature strengths – those at the top of their profile – come naturally to them, everyone has the capacity to enhance all 24.
Okay, so what does this have to do with the holidays?
Everyone wants to enjoy a happier, less stressful holiday season. There are three character strengths in particular that you can draw upon (no matter where they fall in your profile) to make your holidays more pleasant…
- Prudence – helps you avoid overspending
When shopping for gifts, do you like to browse the stores hoping to find inspiration, or do you make a list prior to your trip? If the former, you’re more likely to overspend. Retailers spend billions of dollars on fancy displays and tempting packaging to entice you to buy. The longer you peruse, the more likely you’ll spend money on unplanned items. The key is to use your strength of prudence and make a detailed list of the gifts you need to purchase before you hit the stores. Create a plan and a budget, and you won’t be drowning in debt as the new year approaches.
- Self-Regulation – helps you resist overeating
With fun parties to attend and sweet treats everywhere, it’s easy to overindulge. The strength of self-regulation deals with your ability to control your appetites and emotions. But what if that strength is low on your profile? No problem. Dr. Roy Baumeister, leading researcher in the field, has found that self-regulation is like a muscle and can be strengthened. Don’t let the holidays be an excuse to blow your diet; practice saying “no” to food temptations and keep track of what you eat throughout the day. Research shows that starting a daily self-control exercise, like monitoring your food intake, can improve your management of other self-control domains, such as physical exercise, financial management and mood.
- Gratitude – helps you fully embrace the season
The benefits of practicing gratitude are so rich that a whole year should be dedicated to this strength. It is one of the strengths most associated with life satisfaction, happiness, achievement, building better relationships and improvements in psychological and physical health. It’s not quite a panacea…but close. The end of the year is a great time to take stock of the goodness in your life. At the end of each day, write down a few things you are grateful for. This simple exercise has been shown to boost happiness and decrease depression for up to 6 months! What better way to make the holidays merry and bright?