It was the tail end of winter and I needed a bit of a boost. Enter my 7 Day Signature Strength Challenge.
About a month ago I embarked on a week-long quest to boost my happiness and shift my experience of joy and positivity. I chose to engage in a positive psychology intervention that focussed on using one of my top character strengths of creativity in a different way each day for 7 days.
One of the challenges of this intervention was coming up with 7 ways to use my creativity. That alone was a way to expand my creative thinking. Although I didn’t count it as one, I could have. I chose a few things I had not done for a long time, or rarely engaged in. Plus a couple of new activities.
Day 1 – Pastel creation – Grabbing the pastels I received at Christmas I quickly doodled a face which turned into a composition of a girl looking backwards. Truth is it wasn’t supposed to be like that but the intention was to play quickly and open-up the pathway to creativity.
Day 2 – Growth Mindset page coloured with pencil crayons – I received a set of growth mindset colouring pages and chose one focussed on the wisdom from making mistakes. It started out as a somewhat boring colouring assignment but then I felt a sense of pride in creating some interesting colour combinations with shading. This quick assignment ended up taking me several hours and I completed it over two days as I took my time layering the shades and combining various colours. The more I got into it, the more I felt I was in the ‘zone’ or in flow. Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines flow as “a psychological state that accompanies highly engaging activities”.
Day 3 – Academy Awards painted cookies – This one took a team to complete. My sister-in-law bringing the cookie cutter all the way from Palm Springs, my friend Carisa giving me advice on the icing, gold and eventually providing the gold dust (there was none in Winnipeg apparently), my daughters helping to bake the cookies, and my husband coming up with the idea in the first place. I’d never painted cookies before and I rarely bake because then I’d just eat them. Perhaps the real creativity was in the problem solving and how to make an Ocsar winning cookie. Best supporting dessert?
Day 4 – Snow day photo collage – Mother Nature surprised me with an opportunity to create a collage of late snowfall pictures. It was beautiful, heavy-wet, and there was lots of it. With my camera in hand I ran out in the early morning to capture images of the pristine white that blanketed our neighbourhood and had taken out a few trees. They weren’t used to this much snow either. On any other day, I wouldn’t have made the effort to head out so early but I’m grateful that my creative project inspired me to do so.
Day 5 – Creative problem solving with a buddy – A friend of mine is a natural idea generator and I had a significant personal problem that required some out of the box creative thinking. We spent a couple of hours together coming up with plausible and very interesting solutions to my problem. Our creativity bounced off each other and we came up with a few realistic possibilities and some really ‘out there’ ideas. We had a good time and my stress level decreased as a result.
Day 6 – Piano revisited – I used to take piano lessons when I was a kid and hadn’t played in years. We have a set of rarely used keyboards at home so I broke out my old books and plunked my way through some songs from long ago. They came back quickly. At least the right-hand part did. And I enjoyed the experience of banging out the tunes. I even got a round of applause from my family afterwards. And a few chuckles.
Day 7 – Knitting project – I rediscovered a fisherman’s cable sweater knitting project I began and then abandoned long ago when the busyness of life got in the way. This one will take me a while to finish. I have two sleeves to go and I will complete it and wear it proudly. Yes, it’s back in style again. Or maybe it’s new vintage? Is there such as thing?
It’s been about a month since completing my Signature Strengths Challenge on creativity and I’m still feeling the uplift of happiness from it. Research shows that doing this particular challenge for 7 days in a row with one of your signature strengths will boost your happiness and guard against depression for up to 6 months. I have 5 months to go to enjoy the effects.
Even weeks later I still feel lighter, happier and am more aware of my strengths and what makes me unique. These projects brought a smile to my face and my family members’. And I’ve resurrected a few hobbies that I had shelved or had forgotten about.
I was able to reminisce on my piano playing days, feel like a kid again with the pastels and coloured pencils, and enjoy time with my gal pal stretching our brains in an energizing fashion. Maybe in a couple of months I will do a re-boot and try out another one of my top strengths. To keep the momentum flowing.
7 Day Signature Strengths Challenge
If you’re interested in doing a similar challenge yourself here are the instructions:
- Learn – Take the VIA Strengths Assessment to discover my signature (top) strengths http://beingpukka.pro.viasurvey.org
- Pick One – Select one of my top strengths – I chose creativity.
- Action – Put it in action for 7 days. Each day I’ll use creativity in a new way.
- Notice – Be mindful when using my strength – notice how I’m feeling and what I’m doing. I’ll also journal about the experience.