Many different tools and measures exist for identifying what’s wrong with people, especially in the field of psychology. Fortunately, in recent years, people’s strengths have also begun to receive the spotlight, with instruments being developed to assess character virtues and assets.
A recent study of 2274 Israeli children investigated their character strengths (Shoshani 2019). The analyses found that strengths tend to cluster into four core factors:
1. Intellectual Strengths: e.g., love of learning, curiosity, appreciation of beauty, creativity
2. Interpersonal Strengths: e.g., teamwork, perspective, social intelligence, kindness
3.Temperance Strengths: e.g., open-mindedness, prudence, persistence, self-regulation, forgiveness
4. Transcendence Strengths: e.g., zest, hope, gratitude, spirituality
Results showed a negative relationship between the temperance strengths and socio-emotional difficulties, as well as between interpersonal strengths and socio-emotional difficulties. In other words, the more these particular kinds of strengths are developed in children, the more buffered they may be from social and emotional difficulties.
Positive relationships were found between children’s emotional well-being and the presence of the transcendence, intellectual and interpersonal strengths. The particular characteristics most associated with well-being were: hope, love, zest, and love of learning!Virtues such as modesty and authenticity had no correlation at all with emotional well-being for young children, suggesting that some strengths have stronger associations with mental health than other traits.
Perhaps, in addition to the endless corrections offered to children in fine-tuning their behavior, we would do well to reinforce their natural tendencies towards hope, love, zest and learning.
Did you know…
In New Delhi, India, 1,000 schools have added a class on happiness, starting students’ day with inspirational stories, self-care and meditation. Delhi’s Education Minister, Manish Sisodia, was inspired by Bhutan’s commitment to its citizen’s well-being through its Gross National Happiness Index, and the inclusion of a happiness-infused curriculum, now modeled after by twelve countries.
Check it out:
We can all relate to the burnout that comes with exposure to negative events, growing numb to the violence and injustice covered in the daily news, for example. But do we habituate as well to virtuous acts, feeling less elevation after repeatedly witnessing people going above and beyond?
Researchers at Seattle Pacific University investigated this question (Erickson et al 2018), specifically whether moral elevation (a type of awe and uplift experienced when watching people help each other) decreases over time and exposure. They measured participants’ responses to daily videos of people conducting virtuous acts and compared them with responses of participants who watched either neutral or amusing videos.
The results found that, as expected, those watching virtuous acts experienced immediate and sustained elevation in contrast to the other two groups. No habituation effects were found over time, after many exposures.
Another finding revealed that only those who watched the virtuous acts over time demonstrated higher positive affect up to a month later. Those participants also reported having set more compassionate goals during the same time span (e.g., trying to be supportive of others), and set fewer self-image goals (trying to get others to recognize their positive qualities).
Apparently, we do not tire of witnessing virtuous acts. Rather, they continue to move us and mobilize us to act more compassionately and to transcend concerns with our self-image. Perhaps we should take in positive news for our well-being as we do vitamins, to help us keep our minds healthy and our hearts inspired.
Read about Envision Kindness and their study showing how visual images of acts of kindness resulted in twice the amount of joy, gratitude and optimism than images of cuteness (puppies) or beauty (flowers).
Read about the new school campus designed by and for homeless children in Oklahoma City via the nonprofit Positive Tomorrows.
Read about Sloane Johnson, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who coordinated life-changing help for the town’s local crossing-guard, Wallace Peoples, after learning of his struggles.