April 2020 - Volume 1, Issue 2 | VIA Institute

April 2020 - Volume 1, Issue 2

By Dr. Ryan Niemiec

A one-minute read for practitioners, researchers, and educators to stay informed on the science & practice of character strengths.

I hope this United in Strengths briefing finds you doing well, wherever you are in the world. In this issue, I offer you a short dialogue that represents a common interchange happening the last couple of months. This is followed by my highlighting a couple research studies on meaning/loneliness and how to take action with character strengths therein.

WHICH STRENGTH IS MOST IMPORTANT FOR CORONAVIRUS COPING?

Student: Which character strength is best to use during this time of the coronavirus pandemic?

Teacher: Great question. Let’s see what people have to say.

Response 1: Obviously, it is perseverance. Who knows how long this will last? As well as the aftereffects? Having a persistent resilience will help all of us keep going despite unprecedented obstacles, feelings of helplessness, and new conflicts emerging in our home environments.

Response 2: No doubt prudence is the crucial strength. All of us must be more careful and planful every time we leave home. I wear my mask, carry disinfectant wipes, and keep my distance from people.

Response 3: It’s best to prioritize a combination of love and gratitude. We all need these heart-strengths. My family is trying to be more caring, attentive to one another’s needs, and showing an additional dose of support for one another.

Response 4: Actually, it’s humor. Where would we be without levity and laughter at this stressful time? We need to find the absurd in this odd situation. We need to bring lightheartedness to the dark that everyone is focused on.

Response 5: No doubt my leadership strength has been most pivotal as I guide my team forward with a well-thought out vision and plan while also appreciating their unique strengths.

Response 6: What’s most important is for each person to turn to their signature strengths. These are “the real you.” These highest strengths will serve each person well at this time of crisis. We might need to use them in newer ways than we have before, but these will help us stay true to ourselves when we need them most.

Teacher: You are all correct! We need all these responses, together. Each person’s positive action creates a web of strength for our families and the world. May each of us take action for the good in our own way… right now.

FROM THE SCIENCE: RESEARCH YOU CAN USE

Meaning and loneliness:

Loneliness reached new heights BEFORE the coronavirus pandemic. Couple that with the long-term isolation so many people are facing right now, and there is a problem mounting. But, it seems that character strengths can play an important role in supporting people to find meaning within their isolation and discover new ways to handle loneliness.

Two recent studies show character strengths are important for coping with isolation and loneliness. One study looked at older adults and found, through in-depth interviews, that character strengths were crucial as coping strategies to combat isolation and foster a meaningful life (Russo-Netzer & Littman-Ovadia, 2019). The other study looked at college students and found that those who focused on and practiced with character strengths and other positive psychology concepts had highly substantial boosts to life meaning, as well as decreases in loneliness, among other benefits (Smith et al., 2020).

How to apply this research:

Let’s not assume everyone is fine and happy. Ask your clients, students, and family members – young and old – about their character strengths. Ask them:

  • Which of your character strengths are most important to you right now?
  • How have you used those strengths lately?
  • Which strength best helps you feel a sense of meaning when you are alone?

SUBSCRIBE TO BRIEFINGS

Every other month Dr. Ryan Niemiec, VIA's Education Director, sends a newsletter to connect with researchers, strengths practitioners and educators from around the world. He offers things such as a character strengths research finding, a practical nugget, and/or a character strengths story or dialogue he's found inspiring. His hope is that it will prime your day and week with character strengths. Also, let it serve as a reminder that you can reach out at anytime to share your study, your strength applications, and your latest innovations! This article captures a past newsletter. To receive newsletters in real-time, click to subscribe

REFERENCES

Russo-Netzer, P., & Littman-Ovadia, H. (2019). "Something to live for": Experiences, resources and personal strengths in late adulthood. Frontiers in Psychology. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02452

Smith, B. W., Ford, C. G., Erickson, K., & Guzman, A. (2020). The effects of a character strength focused positive psychology course on undergraduate happiness and well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies: An Interdisciplinary Forum on Subjective Well-Being. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-020-00233-9

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