I wonder what you thought when you read the title of this blog? Did you think about the muscle men at the gym, the Arnold Schwarzenegger or Eddie Hall type people? Those who lift phenomenally heavy weights that defy what could be thought of as humanly possible?

There is something very positive to be said for physical exercise that involves weight lifting, or strengths based training. The feeling of having a physically strong body can be so empowering and has, in my experience, a positive impact on self-confidence. But, this article isn’t about body strength; it’s about discovering and training your personal character strengths.

What are Character Strengths?

Character strengths can be defined as positive traits reflected in our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Martin Seligman, an eminent psychologist in the world of positive psychology, and some of his colleagues spent considerable time researching and specifying important positive traits which resulted in the Values In Action (VIA) Classification of Strengths. They developed this system which details 24 character strengths that sit within six virtues and characteristics that are deemed valuable almost universally.

What Are Your Strengths?

The chances are that if I asked you what your strengths are you’d most likely be able to tell me two or three positive character strengths you can spot in yourself. But if I asked you to tell me five strengths you might struggle. This can be because we often forget to notice the things we do best and have a tendency to notice our inadequacies. Have you ever thought that investing time and energy into an area of strength might be more productive and successful than using our personal resources to overcome weaknesses?

With that in mind why don’t you find out what your strengths are? Take the VIA survey strengths assessment tool. When you have your list of strengths look at the top five, do they resonate with you? Ask yourself the following questions

  • Do I feel naturally drawn to this strength?
  • Is this the real me?
  • Do I feel excited or energised by it?
  • Would others see it in me?

When you are happy with your top 5 strengths ask yourself the following question

  • How often have you intentionally used this strength currently – at work, at home, in your hobbies or interests?

Write the answer to this question down, how do you demonstrate this strength – how does it make you feel when you recognise this? I’m wondering if you feel a sense of pride, or perhaps even a little pleased with yourself.

There is evidence to show that recognising our strengths can give us a boost to our subjective wellbeing. Which is great right? But shall we take this one step further?

How to Develop Your Character Strengths

Pick one of your top 5 strengths and think about how you can develop this. For example, if one of your stop character strengths is curiosity here’s some ideas of how you could apply this in your daily life to develop that particular strength:

  • Attend a talk on a subject you don’t know anything about
  • Try a food you’ve never had before
  • Be curious about someone – connect with them
  • Visit a gallery or museum you’ve never been to before
  • Try a new exercise class or dance class
  • Pick a new hobby to try out – could you learn a new language? Learn to throw a pot? Learn how to play golf?
  • Ask the people you know what makes them most happy or if they could invite 5 people to dinner from history of present day who they would invite and why (I love this question!)
  • Pick a place to visit that you’ve never been to before

Developing your character strengths has been shown in scientific evidence to enhance your subjective wellbeing and help you to flourish in life. If you can find ways to do this every day it will make an impact upon your life. The beauty of doing this activity is that it doesn’t have to be large grand gestures; you can apply small simple changes that could form new habits for you each day.

We started out this blog with an assumption that strength training meant building muscles. I’m pretty sure that character strengths and mindset will also play a part in being able to lift the weights like Arnold and Eddie – I wonder if perseverance was in their top 5?

You might be wondering what all this has to do with weight loss?  Well, in my experience staying strong whilst making changes is really helpful.  I have found this to not only be true for myself but also for people that I work with.

I hope you enjoy applying your strengths!

(P.S. one of my top 5 strengths is a love of learning, and I would certainly love to know how you get along – so please feel free to drop me a comment below!)

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This was something that I wanted to figure out pretty quickly. Enablers are things that would help me on my journey and blockers – well they were the things that would put up barriers for me or obstacles.

I sat down with a piece of paper and drew two columns. I started out with all the things that I thought would help me. I knew that I wanted to do some exercise and I also knew that going to the gym was not something that I wanted to do (I will blog more about raising self confidence and self-esteem at another time). So, I wanted to exercise and do something everyday to move my body so I invested in an exercise bike – this was my first enabler. My list continued with items such as ‘find support’ and ‘watch my progress on My Fitness Pal’ also ‘set small achievable goals’.

I then moved onto what blocks me. This included items such as ‘having rubbish food in the house’ and ‘going shopping when I’m hungry’. I also wrote down impulse control (again this is something I will blog more about later). But I knew that not being able to control my emotions or impulses would be a blocker for me.

When I had my list of enablers and blockers I then started working on them.

This might be a good place to start for you if you are looking to make changes – essentially you are asking yourself ‘what will help me and what will diminish me?’.

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The first place I started on my journey was to think about habits. I wanted to get myself into some good habits, so I started to look into how to do this. University College London carried out an interesting piece of research on habits to see if they could find out how long it takes to form a new habit. The outcome was that something relatively easy to do (such as drink a glass of water with breakfast) became habitual within about 20 days. Activities that are a lot harder took a lot longer and some didn’t become a ‘habit’ within the time frame of the experiments (approximately 80 days).

If we think about this it makes sense – habits are something you don’t need to think about, they are something you automatically do such as brushing your teeth. If you are going to do an activity then it would seem that getting into a routine is the best bet (well from the evidence I could find anyway).

So, with that in mind I set up my first routine – and that was to log everything I was eating – I had to know where I was starting right? There are some great apps out there that allow you to do this – I used My Fitness Pal.

Getting into the routine of knowing what I was doing each day helped me firstly to notice what exactly was going on and then to start making changes.

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I hope you enjoy joining me on the journey to a fitter and healthier me.  I was talking about my progress and it was suggested to me that I should write a blog – to share what I am learning along the way so that hopefully people can connect with me and some of the ideas I will talk about on here.

So, here’s a little bit about me.  For most of my life I have been on a ‘diet’.  And most of them have been ‘successful’ when I’ve been able to stick to them but just not sustainable (who remembers the cabbage soup diet? yuk!).  I decided 6 months ago to start with my mindset and follow with healthy eating and exercise.  So far so good!  I think the biggest difference this time around is the combination of all the three elements of mind, food and exercise.  As I’m a CBT therapist and study the science of positive psychology, I decided to get busy working on myself by applying tools and techniques that enable change.

I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts and ideas with you all