Dr. Neal Mayerson

United in Strengths

At a time like this I am reminded more than ever how connected the world is, and I am encouraged by our capacity as individuals and a community to support one another. So first let me ask, how are you doing? I hope you will take a moment to reflect on this with honesty.

Whatever you are feeling, you are not alone. In this time of great uncertainty, your character strengths—the positive parts of your personality that impact how you think, feel and behave—are also here to help guide you. All you need to do is tap into these strengths. (Want to learn your strengths? The VIA Survey is available for free, worldwide, so adults and youth can discover what is best in them.)

What You Can Do Today

Without your usual routines, you may be wondering what to do while social distancing or quarantining. Your unique strengths are a great tool to help! Below are a few research-backed tips to activate your character strengths to uplift you and those around you.

  • Create Social Connection. We are social beings at our core, so social isolation runs the risk of leading to meaningful psychological distress. While these physical measures are necessary for our health, we still have the opportunity to stay connected. Try applying your strengths of love and kindness to stay in touch—and keep in mind that hearing a voice and seeing a face can enhance connectedness above and beyond texting.
  • Maintain Healthy Relationships. The flip side of social isolation is that many people will be isolated together, creating a forced physical closeness that can cause distress. For healthy relationships, we all need to regulate our closeness and distance from each other. Before reacting to someone’s request for “personal space,” try applying your strength of social intelligence to consider their needs and emotions. Now, more than ever, we can be more generous in offering each other allowances for time out from one another.
  • Try New Hobbies. Many recreational activities such as going to restaurants, movies, gyms, concerts, etc. are currently restricted and not options for managing our stress via relaxation. Your strength of creativity can help you think of alternate ways to continue to find enjoyment, exercise, and calm your mind and body. Or use your strength of curiosity to learn new things or try a new hobby. Research has shown that learning something new is an effective way to manage stress.
  • Find the Silver Lining. Now is a time for hope that the virus will become reasonably contained, and effective treatment for the illness and immunization against it will come sooner than later. Character strengths are forged in the cauldron of stress and challenge, and help us get through difficult times. As we await better news, we can broaden our focus beyond the virus without diminishing its impact. Turn to your strengths of perseverance and love of learning to work on projects you may now have time to attend to. Don’t set aspirations aside. Try to keep forward progress when you can.

I hope these words have provided some encouragement and comfort. On behalf of all of us at the VIA Institute on Character, we are here for you. Let’s be kind to ourselves and one another.

Neal Mayerson, Ph.D., Chairman of the VIA Institute