For a couple years, I have boiled down the benefits found in hundreds of studies on character strengths to two words: well-being and adversity. Character strengths help us build well-being of all kinds (e.g., relational, physical, spiritual, and mental well-being) and they help us to observe, manage, overcome, cope with, and/or transcend adversity of many kinds (e.g., suffering, conflict, vices, stress, problems). As we enter the holiday season and continue to confront the uncertainty and complexity of COVID, we need our character strengths now more than ever – for well-being and for adversity.
This issue offers a “taste” of over 150 character strengths studies between 2020-2021. I then invite you to apply the science for your own benefit.
--Dr. Ryan Niemiec, VIA Education Director
What do the following words/phrases have in common?
- Promoting goodness
- Grade point average (GPA) and standardized test scores
- Nature connectedness and positive environmental behaviors
- Workplace engagement and performance
- Prosocial behavior
- Family connections
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Moral behavior
- Stress and anxiety
- Coping with loss
- Chronic illness management
- Posttraumatic growth
- Chronic pain management
- COVID coping
- Handling challenges in the classroom
- Suicidal ideation
- Severe social withdrawal among youth
- Buffering against depression
- Emotional exhaustion at work
Character strengths were recently found to be connected with all of the above! The first list includes well-being areas linked with character strengths in one or more studies in the last 2 years. The second list includes areas of adversity in which character strengths were negatively linked to the area or found to buffer against the problem, indicating a benefit around strengths. Visit our Research Findings page for citations and summaries of these and hundreds of other studies.
Make it Practical – Right Now!
The research connections above are mostly correlational, not causal studies, thus we cannot say that using character strengths will create the areas on the left or right. But using your strengths to deliberately target a particular outcome can increase the likelihood of achieving that outcome.
Therefore, just in time for the holiday season, I offer a practical strategy for you to draw a personal link between yourself and a positive outcome area.
Step 1: Outcome selection.
- Which outcome in the well-being or adversity list would you like to target during the holiday season?
- Which area might be most important for you or your family? Which might be most important for you to target for a goal in the New Year?
- Pick one of the above valued outcomes.
Step 2: Connect your character strengths.
- How might you use 1-2 of your signature strengths to pursue/reach that outcome?
- Which middle or lower character strength in your profile might be most important for you to tap into?
- Understand how your character strengths can serve as a pathway toward the valued outcome.
Step 3: Create a plan/routine.
- What is one small step you can take, today, toward your goal?
- How might you link your goal with a daily routine to make it more likely you will keep it up?
- Examples of routines you might pair with: do you goal at lunchtime each day; when you first wake up; when you are making a phone call; before you turn on your computer in the morning; before you drive home; as a reward whenever you finish a project; as part of your bedtime routine.
- Take a concrete step to pursue the valued outcome.
See our Research Findings page for over 800 studies in the science of character.