Since the Coronavirus pandemic, many of us have quite quickly moved into a new ‘normal’, going about our everyday lives in very different ways, and finding new meaning in the challenges we are having to adapt to.
This period of change has caused many of us to re-evaluate our lives and ask ourselves “what is the good life?” because rarely do we have time to step back and contemplate what it means to us.
Were we living it before the pandemic? And now, with so many of life’s distractions and pleasures stripped away, what do we really value and view as important?
So let’s consider the role of our strengths and values in helping us to answer this question. A notion called ‘flow’ and how achieving this through activities that draw on our character strengths, or virtues, can help us build our resilience and wellbeing and rediscover a ‘good life’.
What is flow?
Flow is a psychological concept or state of being that arises when we are fully engaged in the things we love to do. Time stops for us when we are in flow and we are completely focused in the moment. This may be reading or writing; a physical activity such as sport, dancing or singing or a social activity such as sharing an experience with others.
Each activity that creates a state of flow leads to more than just positive emotions, pleasure or satisfaction of a physical need because they draw on our strengths.
What do we mean by strengths?
A strength is a psychological characteristic or trait that is visible across different situations and over time.
Character strengths tend to be moral traits that can be learned and developed, such as honesty, loyalty, perseverance, creativity, courage, wisdom and fairness. They are a useful source of meaningful activity that can positively impact our own lives and the lives of those around us. As such, key character strengths are ubiquitous, being shared and valued across all cultures and religions.
However, character strengths are also valued in their own right and not just because they enable us to produce good outcomes. They are valued characteristics and traits that any parent would wish for in their children, such as wisdom or creativity, courage or honesty.
When we use our strengths we experience positive emotions such as pride, satisfaction, joy or fulfilment and this contributes positively to our self-esteem.
What are your strengths?
Having started to read this article, you may already be wondering what your own strengths are. Or perhaps you have in mind the personal strengths that you usually draw on to get you through difficult times or new challenges. You may have been using and noticing them through the recent challenges associated with the pandemic. But there may be other strengths in your toolbox that do not show up so often and which it would be good to be aware of.
It can be quite difficult to fully acknowledge our own strengths, as there are often cultural or personal pressures to downplay our strengths and successes. The phrase ‘pride comes before a fall’ highlights the common cultural tendency to ‘bring down a peg or two’ those who feel a sense of satisfaction or pleasure in their achievements.
Rather than thinking about what you consider to be your personal strengths, try asking yourself how you would like other people to see you, as you really are. Would you consider:-
Wisdom: Intellectual strengths that help you gain and use information.
Courage: Strengths of will that help you accomplish goals in the face of fear and internal or external obstacles.
Humanity: Interpersonal strengths that help you befriend others and tend to your relationships.
Justice: Social or civic strengths that help bolster a healthy community.
Temperance: Protective traits that help you avoid excess and stay on track in the face of temptations.
Transcendence: Strengths of meaning that connect you with the larger world and provide meaning.
Try narrowing down the list to a core set of key strengths that you feel a true connection to in your everyday life at work and home, in your relationships and in your recreational activities and then draw on your personal strengths to live ‘the good life’.
With everything changing so fast right now, you may be thinking, ‘How will we ever bounce-back from this?’
From feeling isolated to being bored to managing the varied emotions that come with our experience with Covid-19.
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. ~ Confucius
By now, you know how life works.
We stand up and we fall down again, just like a toddler learning how to walk.
Below are just some of our favourites so go get your bounce on!
- Accept the reality of your situation.
- Realize that change is always going to be in your life.
- Learn to be an optimist.
- Be nice to yourself.
- Remember that everyone has flaws. Everyone.
- Practice mindfulness by noticing your thoughts and feelings
- Be flexible and open in your way of thinking.
- Have a tribe. Social support is absolutely essential in bouncing back in life.
- Talk about your difficulties with trusted friends and family members. You don’t have to tough it out. Talk it out instead.
- Let go of judging your thoughts and feelings.
- Take a break.
- Find something that makes you laugh really hard.
- Have a mentor.
- Remember that your thoughts aren’t always true.
- Just because you struggle with something doesn’t mean you’re not resilient. It means you’re human.
- Get a new perspective.
- Practice acts of kindness.
- Once a week, write down what you’re grateful for.
- Savour the good stuff. The next time you see a beautiful sunset, stop and really see it.
- Don’t resist.
- Drop your struggle against change. We want to feel like we’re flexible and open and yet, when change arrives, we resist it as though it were the devil.
- Do what is in front of you.
- Embrace your shadow. We all have a dark side – don’t run from yours.
- Remember that falling apart means you can put yourself back together any way you’d like.