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My Top Three Positive Psychology Exercises To Transform Your Introvert Life

Updated: Mar 20

Increase your life satisfaction, improve your mood and enrich your relationships with my three favourite Positive Psychology exercises.

By now, most of us know Positive Psychology isn’t simply about positive thinking but don’t know a lot about its practical application. As I have just become a certified Positive Psychology Master Coach (yay, me!) and am a card-carrying introvert, I’m in the perfect position to bridge the gap for you with some personal recommendations on a few life-changing Positive Psychology exercises.


PLAY TO YOUR INTROVERT STRENGTHS

Martin Seligman popularized the notion of Positive Psychology in the late 90’s, defining it as the study of what makes life most worth living. To this end, he identified three types of happy lives:

1. The Pleasant Life: enjoying frequent hits of fleeting sensory pleasure

2. The Good (AKA Engaged) Life: emphasis on cultivating personal strengths and virtues

3. The Meaningful Life: seeking meaning and purpose, using your strengths and virtues to serve something bigger than yourself


From these descriptions, you can see that Seligman shared Aristotle’s obsession with virtues and identified seven universally valued character traits: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. From here he listed 24 different strengths as subcategories:


I have highlighted strengths (debatably) most typical to introverts. To identify your own particular strengths go to the test on Seligman’s website: https://www.viacharacter.org/survey/


The test will rank your character strengths from strongest to least strong (not necessarily weak – important point) and the idea is to spend most of your efforts applying your top few strengths (known as your ‘signature strengths’) to every area of your life as frequently as possible. While you shouldn’t totally neglect your least strong areas, more energy is generally required to move from incompetent to average than to improve from good to excellent so you will get more ‘bang for your buck’ by playing to your strengths. Research by Gallup found that managers who exercise their strengths are 38% more likely to be in the high productivity category and they exercised their strongest suits six times more often.


My own signature strengths are love, forgiveness, creativity and curiosity. It is easy for me to see how these play out in my life. My number one priority in life is my nuclear family so my wife and I have created a loving, harmonious environment for our three sons. As I write this, my flow is distracted by happy bellowing from the playroom as they play FIFA on the Xbox together - they really are each others’ best friends. My ability to readily forgive makes me a non-judgemental listener, which is an invaluable quality in my professional capacity as a coach. I cultivate creativity through writing and satisfy my curiosity with unending study and self-experimentation.


I encourage you to take the test yourself, compare the results against your intuitions (a powerful introvert strength in itself) and use your signature strengths to live your best authentic life. Try using them in a new way each day for a week. One study found the resultant increases in happiness and decreases in depression lasted as long as six months. Get creative!


THINK OF THREE GOOD THINGS

Three Good Things is one of the most commonly used Positively Psychology exercises to promote happiness. It is simple yet profound. Every evening, write down three good things that happened during your day. The idea is to (a) relive the pleasant experience in vivid detail, and (b) train your brain to look for the good things in your world. They don't necessarily have to be monumental events. Even a smile from a stranger on the train may be meaningful enough to make your list but they must come from your heart and be unique each time - no repeats allowed.


Most people stop there but results compound exponentially when you go deeper. As well as noting the three things, reflect on what made them good and really connect with those feelings. Here are some questions to guide you:

· Why did this good thing happen today?

· What does this mean to me?

· What does it mean to other people?

· In what ways did I or others contribute to this good thing?

· What have I learned from this?

· Who can I share this good thing with?

· What can I do the next day to have more of this?


This exercise also typically runs for seven days (though I run it constantly because I enjoy it so much). Take as much time as you need and if you are in a rush that day, make the effort to dedicate at least three minutes to the exercise (one for each 'thing'). By the end of the week, you should notice an increase in your gratitude/optimism levels and a corresponding improvement to your overall happiness.


BECOME AN ACTIVE LISTENER

Let’s be real for a moment. Introverts often struggle with interpersonal relationships – most often with our wider circle but sometimes with our nearest and dearest as well. While we are renowned as great listeners, our audience sometimes interprets our contemplative silence as disinterest or even contempt. I have been accused of this many times in my life to the point of actual divorce. A Positive Psychology intervention designed specifically to circumvent this potential intimacy/trust killer is developing the skill of Active Constructive Responding.


Say your child, friend, partner comes to you with some news: “I made the team!” These are the different ways you might respond:


Simple awareness of your communication style may be enough to make a positive shift in your communication style but if you want to formalise the process you can fill in a log like this one (adapted from the Life Success Academy):


You can then review this log, either on your own or with a trusted friend, partner or coach, noting any trends and planning future adjustments to your style of responding. With practice you can lift your ACR game and reveal your trademark introvert empathy to better build relationships with others. Making a conscious effort to change my habitual style of responding has radically transformed my family life and made my second (and last!) marriage a success.


FURTHER THOUGHTS...

When I originally started planning this post, the Positive Psychology methods for cultivating mindfulness and setting goals were at the top of my list. Once I started writing, I realized these are complex subjects deserving of their own separate posts. Keep an eye out on this blog or sign up for new post alerts below.


Until then, apply whichever of these three exercises will benefit you most. If you would like any assistance/clarification you are most welcome to contact me. My wish is that exercising your signature strengths, reflecting on the good events of your day and developing the skill of active constructive responding will bring as much light and happiness into your life as they have mine.

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