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How can I use my strengths to become happier?

Edward Phillips
Physical Therapy
Signature strengths can be defined as character traits you identify with, appreciate, and enjoy using: you're a curious person, perhaps, and you have a lot of integrity. Strengths may change throughout life as circumstances do. Playing to strengths can help you meet challenges. For example, one person trying to influence a local school board to ban soft drink sales might tap into the strength to speak up forcefully and clearly at a meeting; another person strong in team-building might feel uncomfortable speaking out, yet could help build consensus among parents, nutritionists, and school officials. A study published in American Psychologist noted that happiness increased and depression decreased for six months in participants who were asked to identify their signature strengths and then use one in a new way every day for a week.

First assess your strengths. Then choose just one to use in a new way every day for a week. For example, on day one you might plunge into an activity that makes you nervous (bravery), set a beautiful table for an ordinary meal (appreciation of beauty), or listen to a talk show you normally are at odds with and consider legitimate points it may raise (open-mindedness), depending on which of these strengths you've chosen. Strengths most closely linked to happiness—gratitude, hope, vitality, curiosity, and love—may be worth cultivating even if they're not on your current list of signature strengths.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.