A Series of Practices to Cultivate Strength and Resilience – Strengths Fueled Thanksgiving

Greetings! As we approach the holiday season, my fervent wish for you is safety, good health, and the continued pursuit of your best possible life. I feel grateful for your presence in my life. If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this week, Happy Thanksgiving! 

Last Thanksgiving, I published a strengths-filled recipe for enjoying any holiday. This year, I’m updating that recipe since the holiday season is mixed with a global pandemic, political divisions, job losses, food insecurity, illness, and other significant stressors. 

The recipe below is designed to be uplifting and provide respite, no matter the stressors you’re currently facing. Use this recipe for the holidays and every day. Feel free to substitute ingredients when you think they will make a positive difference.

The Inspiration

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s about people coming together to express gratitude and share life’s abundance and blessings. The commercial trappings of other holidays don’t exist; only community. 

This year, my family won’t be having its traditional gathering. We will celebrate safely at a distance over Zoom, but of course it won’t be the same. Nonetheless, many rituals can continue. One of my new rituals is sharing my recipe for a delicious, strengths-fueled Thanksgiving holiday.

Bon appetit! 

Ingredients

  • Your top 3 signature strengths
  • 2 parts strengths-spotting
  • A large dollop of gratitude
  • 1 overused strength, tempered
  • 1 underused strength, elevated

Step 1

Identify 3 of your signature strengths and choose one new way to express them on Thanksgiving day.

We know from research that using a signature strength in a new way every day for a week can increase happiness and reduce depression for months (Seligman, et al, 2005). To identify your signature strengths, take the character strengths survey. I’m choosing my 3 go-to signature strengths: creativity, humor, and perspective.

Creativity keeps me inspired. I love to cook and unleash my creativity in the kitchen. Since I’m not cooking for a crowd this year, I have room to experiment with different flavors and combinations.  

Humor keeps my mood lifted and provides a much-needed break from the heaviness of the day. Pets are often a source of fun and playfulness, like in this short video of dogs and cats playing. Even a 3-minute humor break can shift me into a more positive mindset.

Perspective keeps me grounded in pressure-filled situations. The differences in this year’s holiday give me pause to see the big picture. On one hand, I will miss the energetic chaos of cooking, cleaning, and hosting. However, keeping my family, friends, and community safe and healthy in the long-term is so much more important to me.

Which of your top strengths will you choose for your holiday recipe? If you’d like to feel more confident discussing your strengths, consider registering for a personal coaching session with me to Power Up and strengthen your strengths.

Step 2

Add 2 parts strengths-spotting yourself and the people around you.

Strengths-spotting is a gift you can give on every occasion. It is the gift of seeing and valuing people for their best qualities. When your 10-year-old is behaving well, appreciate her self-regulation.  When you notice someone being helpful, point out his kindness.  Don’t forget to notice your own strengths – how your bravery led you to this moment in time, or how your honesty is helping you be authentic. 

For extra sweetness, spot the strengths in someone with whom you have a difficult relationship or who is rubbing you the wrong way. Notice the effect this has on not only the person, but you. 

Step 3

Fold in a dollop of gratitude.

Gratitude is inherent in the Thanksgiving holiday, but we don’t always remember to express it. No matter how bad things get, there is always something to feel grateful for – the sunny sky, a dear friend, good health. Take a moment to notice and appreciate the blessings in your life. If you’re with others, either in person or virtually, ask each person to name what or who they feel grateful for, and notice the elevating effect.  

Step 4

Add at least 1 overused strength, tempered, and 1 underused strength, elevated.

Which of your strengths might you tend to overuse or underuse during holidays? Some of us become overly critical when under stress, overusing judgment. Temper that strength by taking a few deep breaths to reset and open your mind.

Don’t forget that even a crabby relative deserves kindness. Elevate yours by speaking to him with kind words or striking up a conversation to get to know him better.

Step 5

Blend all ingredients gently together, infusing strengths into Thanksgiving and every day.   

Feel free to add more of your unique blend of character strengths for added sweetness.

The Practice

  1. Gather your ingredients and follow the recipe.
  2. Remember that this is your recipe. It is within your reach to have a delicious, strengths-fueled holiday. Choose your ingredients to shape who you are at this moment and who you want to become in each new moment
  3. Feel free to share the recipe with your loved ones to multiply the goodness!

The Reflection

A strengths-fueled holiday is different from other days because __________. 

The possibilities are endless. Perhaps you feel a bit more serene or uplifted. Perhaps your perspective has shifted in a helpful way. Perhaps you connected more deeply with a loved one.

May all your days be fueled by your strengths.

With all good wishes, 
Jane

A Series of Practices to Cultivate Strength and Resilience – Experiment with Strengths

With everything going on in the US and around the world, one thing has become crystal clear to me: our character strengths are more essential than ever before. 

Can you imagine what daily life might be like if each of us, including world leaders and politicians, consistently elevated his or her signature strengths? Especially in the most contentious of times? Based on decades of research, I can realistically imagine creative problem solving, collaboration, more physical and mental health, meaning, and joy – the things many of us need more of right now. 

The practice below focuses on one slice of this big, complex pie. It highlights a recent article by strengths experts Tayyab Rashid and Robert E. McGrath. It describes at length how character strengths can enhance our ability to feel good and function well, specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This article is an important resource for you as a leader, parent, or strengths enthusiast because it offers 101 actionable practices you can easily integrate into your daily routines and share with your team or family. The post below provides the context you need to focus on strengths and build well-being each day. All you have to do is carve out a few minutes daily to experiment and share.

The Inspiration

Public health measures such as face coverings and physical distancing aren’t the only measures that can help us navigate this prolonged pandemic. Focusing on character strengths can help soften intense emotions, like the fear and anger that often accompany this unnatural state of physical distance. It helps us reframe challenges using a positive lens of strengths. This not only allows us to shift away from what isn’t working, but it provides the tools that allow us to build what works – systems and practices that help us through the crises we face.

Integrating your character strengths in small doses, in things you’re already doing, can help you right now through hardships brought about by political, economic, and daily life challenges. Whether you’re a parent confronted with your kids’ remote learning challenges, a business leader struggling to keep your doors open, or an unemployed or underemployed individual seeking income, applying your character strengths even in small doses daily can help you cope with stress, reframe challenges, boost your mental and physical health, connect meaningfully with others, and build hopeful and positive futures. 

I love to experiment with character strengths and encourage my clients to do the same. Here are 101 actions you can immediately experiment with, beginning on page 127 of the article. They’re categorized based on the results you desire; whether you’re seeking to manage stress, stay healthy, or grow personally (see below for examples).

Manage Stress
Try #97. Spending so much time at home will inevitably present a simple problem you suddenly find difficult to solve. Check in with your feelings. If you’re feeling anxious, take a break if the problem isn’t urgent. Do something to generate positive emotions – take a movement break, call a friend, put a few pieces in the puzzle. Then return to the problem with a fresh perspective and greater likelihood of solving the problem (social intelligence and judgment).

Stay Healthy 
Try #43. Fight cabin fever by getting into action. Run, hike, climb, do a few yoga poses. (zestcreativity, self-regulation). Or #44 – one of my favorites.  Stop eating before you are full, especially with the holidays approaching. (self-regulationprudence)

Grow Personally 
#17 Practice compassion. At least once daily, set your intention to refrain from doing harm to others in your thoughts, words, and actions.
(kindnessself-regulation).

If you haven’t identified your unique blend of character strengths, or if you wish to update your results, take the free character strengths survey to discover where your strengths currently reside. Make sure to keep your results handy when you attempt this practice!

Experiment on your own or with your family, team, or a group of friends. The steps below will guide you. 

The Practice

  1. Each day for the next week, decide whether you wish to: manage your stress, boost your health, grow or build skills, boost a connection, or support a social cause. Why did you choose this goal? 
  2. Next, choose one of the practices and put it into action. Feel free to choose different practices each day or stay with one. However you feel moved.

The Reflection

Complete this reflection to gain some perspective.

I chose this activity because ________. As I completed it, I noticed that ________.

Did you realize or learn something? Feel a sense of pride or accomplishment? Take a brave step toward something meaningful? 

May you feel confident returning to your strengths again and again, no matter what is happening around or within you. 

Jane