How to be happy: Resolve to focus on strengths not weaknesses

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Indy Lifestyle Online

'Every New Year I make a list of resolutions that I then fail miserably to uphold. What can I do differently this year so I don't end up feeling rubbish about myself by mid-January?'

Step 1: Many resolutions are fear-based: I must do better, work harder, eat or drink less. Alternatively, we can pause and reflect on the good in the year that has passed. In visualising our achievements, the things that went well for us, we can create for ourselves a reservoir of emotional sufficiency for the year ahead. If we dismiss, without appreciating, what is good in our lives, we are squandering a valuable resource that can replenish us when the challenges of life occur.

Step 2: Dr Martin Seligman, a pioneer of positive psychology, suggests making resolutions based on positive accomplishments that build on our strengths. Seligman identifies 24 "signature strengths", which he divides into domains that include wisdom and knowledge, courage, humanity and love, temperance and transcendence. If you want to evaluate your own signature strengths, you can access an online survey at www.authentichappiness.org. Focusing on celebrating these strengths, rather than haranguing ourselves for our perceived weaknesses will create a greater sense of optimism, which will in turn enable us to better resist pursuing those things we know do not benefit us.

Step 3: A good starting point is to resolve to take your feelings seriously and attend to them constructively when they make demands on you. Be generous towards yourself if you are feeling stressed, anxious or low. Remind yourself that you are doing your best and that everyone needs some time alone every day to reflect and replenish. Resolutions worth keeping are those that have a real chance of making a positive difference in your life and the lives of those you care about. New Year is the iconic symbol of renewal. We can let it remind us that we can also renew ourselves in each moment. We never have to fail; we can instead resolve to begin again, moment by moment moving closer to being the person we really want to be.

If you are feeling without hope this New Year, you can contact The Samaritans on 08457 909 090

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