It was easy for me to focus on where I felt I lacked.
Feeling not enough kept me not enough. It limited me.
In hindsight, I see how sometimes I didn’t pursue ideas because I didn’t feel I was good enough.
I focused on my weaknesses (perceived or actual) way more than on my strengths and it held me back.
Life changed when I instead put more focus on my strengths. Starting Just a Little Bit Happier is part of me leaning into my strengths: hope, perspective, and gratitude.
There’s a whole segment of positive psychology that uses strength-based interventions. And I want to discuss how you can use it to increase and sustain your happiness.
In the late 1990s, psychologists Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi led the recognition of positive psychology. They wanted to change psychology’s focus from only studying mental illness to studying human strengths, well-being, and positive parts of life.
From positive psychology came strength-based interventions. Instead of fixing weaknesses or problems, these interventions aim to find and use a person’s strengths, talents, and positive qualities. The goal is to build on what already works well to promote growth, resilience, and positive results.
“Strength-based interventions help us cultivate resilience, well-being, and a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.” – Tal Ben-Shahar, positive psychology lecturer and author.
So, let’s dive in and learn what the research says about strength-based interventions.
The Science of Focusing on Your Strengths
I researched several studies for this article and chose three studies that used the general public.
“Strengths-Based Positive Psychology Interventions: A Randomized Controlled Trial with the General Public” (Peterson, Park, & Seligman, 2006), researchers randomly assigned participants from the general public to different groups. The intervention group received strengths-based positive psychology interventions that focused on identifying and using their strengths in new ways. The control group received a neutral intervention. In addition, the study measured the participants’ well-being and depressive symptoms to see how the intervention affected them.
Researchers conducted a study called “Building Strengths in the General Public: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Brief Strengths-Based Intervention” (Quinlan, Swain, & Vella-Brodrick, 2012). They randomly assigned participants from the general public to two groups. The intervention group received a brief strengths-based intervention to help them become more aware of, understand, and apply their strengths. The control group did not receive any intervention. The study measured the participants’ psychological well-being and positive emotions to assess the effectiveness of the intervention.
“Strengths-Based Intervention for the General Public: Feasibility and Preliminary Outcomes” (Proyer, Gander, Wellenzohn, & Ruch, 2014). Researchers investigated the practicality and results of a strengths-based intervention with the general public. Participants were invited to participate in the study and received an intervention focused on identifying and using their strengths. In addition, the study evaluated the feasibility of the intervention and measured changes in well-being and happiness levels to determine its effects.
Honestly, I didn’t run into one study that didn’t confirm that focusing on your strengths benefits your well-being, but let’s break down the findings.
How strengths-based approach contributes to a person’s well-being?
Emphasizing and utilizing your personal strengths can enhance your overall well-being.
Engaging in strengths-based interventions can help reduce feelings of depression.
Recognizing and leveraging your signature strengths can positively impact your life satisfaction and happiness.
Identifying and focusing on your strengths can boost your psychological well-being.
Practicing a strengths-based approach can increase positive emotions and overall happiness.
The benefits of a brief strengths-based intervention can be sustained over time.
Exploring and utilizing your personal strengths is feasible and beneficial for your well-being.
Engaging in strengths-based interventions can lead to improvements in well-being and happiness.
Those are encouraging findings! Clearly, focusing on strengths is something we can do in everyday life to increase happiness.
What is the strength-based approach to life?
You can have a way of life that primarily focuses on your strengths, and you find ways to do your daily activities (whether initially pleasant to you or not) in a way that works with your strength so that life becomes enjoyable in everything you do.
First, you will need to learn your strengths to have a strength-based approach.
So, here’s your homework. First, use tools like the VIA Character Strengths survey to identify your signature strengths.
8 Ways to Increase Happiness Using a Strength-Based Approach
Now that you know your top strengths, here are ways to use them.
Incorporate your signature strengths into daily activities and tasks.
Reflect on utilizing your strengths to overcome challenges and improve well-being.
Keep a gratitude journal, specifically noting moments where you used your strengths and experienced positive outcomes.
Engage in strengths-based conversations with friends and family to support each other’s well-being.
Set goals that align with your strengths, focusing on using them to achieve desired outcomes.
Seek out opportunities in your work or hobbies to apply and develop your signature strengths.
Celebrate and acknowledge your strengths-based accomplishments to boost self-confidence and motivation.
Share your strengths by volunteering or helping others in ways that utilize your unique abilities.
What is a strength-based activity?
Ok, I want to give as an example a situation that is typically not pleasant, like being stuck in traffic after a very long day at work.
Let’s see how someone with the strength of humor and then someone with the strength of hope can use their strengths in a situation like this.
The strength of humor when stuck in traffic and exhausted: If you have a strength in humor, you can use it to make the situation of being stuck in traffic or feeling tired at the end of a long workday more enjoyable.
You can make humorous remarks to yourself or find funny podcasts or music to listen to while in traffic.
When feeling tired, you can use humor to make light of the situation, find humorous aspects of your day, or share a funny story with a friend on your way home.
Using your sense of humor can make these situations a little brighter and more bearable, turning frustration into amusement.
The strength of hope when stuck in traffic and exhausted: If you have strength in hope, you can use it to find positivity and motivation when stuck in traffic or tired at the end of a long workday.
When stuck in traffic, you can use this strength to maintain a positive outlook, reminding yourself that the traffic will eventually clear and you’ll reach your destination.
After a long workday, you can focus on the day’s accomplishments, set small goals for relaxation or self-care, and remind yourself that tomorrow is a new opportunity.
You can stay optimistic and motivated using your hopefulness, finding small joys and renewed energy even in less enjoyable situations.
Yes, it takes practice, but make it a game—the game of learning how amazing you are when you rely on your strengths in daily situations.