Play Your Strengths

 

Herein is my formulation of the good life: using your signature strengths everyday in the main realms of your life to bring abundant gratification and authentic happiness.”  – Martin Seligman

Want to increase your life satisfaction instantly? Play your strengths. Using what  positive psychologist Martin Seligman calls “signature strengths” in all domains of your life can tremendously enhance your degree of happiness and fulfillment.  “Signature strength”s are our best, immediate resources for high level performance.  In multiple studies, research has shown a direct relationship between the engagement of a person’s character strengths and his/her effectiveness, as well as happiness, in both life and work. The more we play to and come from our strengths, the more powerful and happy our lives will be.

In order to fully engage our character strengths to live our best lives, it helps to know what they are. The purpose of the Signature Strengths Exercise is to encourage you to own your signature strengths by defining them and finding more frequent uses for them. A signature strength has the following hallmarks:

    • A sense of ownership and authenticity (this is the real me)
    • A feeling of excitement while displaying it
    • A rapid learning curve as the strength is first practiced
    • A sense of yearning to find new ways to use it
    • A feeling of inevitability in using the strength
    • Invigoration rather than exhaustion while using the strength
    • The creation and pursuit of personal projects that revolve around it

The Values-In-Action (VIA) Signature Strengths Questionnaire is one of the most popular surveys in the world and is available (for FREE!) through the University of Pennsylvania (http://www.authentichappiness.com). To date over 1.8 million people have registered on the website and taken the tests and between 500 – 1,500 new people register every day. This model identifies 24 character strengths, grouped into six large categories called virtues that consistently emerge across history and culture. The virtues are wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. On the website, results from the survey are immediately generated with a report that identifies a person’s character strengths in rank order (from 1 to 24). The top five strengths are called “signature strengths,” which interact with each other and most influence a person’s presence in the world.

Here’s my challenge to YOU: Take the strengths survey. As you complete the questionnaire, pay most attention to the rank order of your strengths. Were there any surprises for you? After you have completed this test, perform the following exercise: Leave a comment on this post below with one of your signature strengths and one new way you will use it at work, at home, or a leisure this week. For example:

    • If your signature strength is creativity, you may choose to set aside two hours one evening to begin working on a screenplay
    • If you identify self-control as a signature strength, you may choose to workout at the gym rather than watch T.V.
    • If your strength is appreciation of beauty and excellence, you might take a longer, more beautiful route home from work, even though it adds twenty minutes more to your commute.

 

Whats my #1 signature strength? GRATITUDE. My new way to use it is to write one sincere thank you letter every day this week. Oh yeah and to express my deepest gratitude to all of YOU for being a loving community of support from which we can all grow stronger lives.

Looking forward to hearing your signature strength and seeing you continue on towards success. Onward and UPWARD!

gratitude and love,

Caroline

For your reference, the following is a summary organizing the 24 character strengths [Peterson and Seligman (2004)] that encompass who we are and how we show up in the world):

I. Wisdom and Knowledge

Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge.

1. Creativity[Originality,Ingenuity] Thinking of novel and productive ways to do things; includes artistic achievement but is not limited to it.

2. Curiosity[Interest,Novelty-Seeking,Openness to Experience] Taking an interest in all of ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering.

3. Open-Mindedness[Judgment,CriticalThinking] Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one’s mind in light of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly.

4. Love of Learning. Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one’s own or formally; (obviously related to strength of curiosity but goes beyond it to describe the tendency to add systematically to what one knows.)

5. Perspective [Wisdom]Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and to other people.

Courage

Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal.

6. Bravery [Valor] Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what is right, even if there is opposition; acting on convictions, even if unpopular; (includes physical bravery but is not limited to it.)

7. Persistence [Perseverance, Industriousness] Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles; “getting it out the door”; taking pleasure in completing tasks.

8. Integrity [Authenticity, Honesty] Speaking the truth and, more broadly, presenting oneself in a genuine way; being without pretense; taking responsibility for one’s feelings and actions.

9. Vitality [Zest, Enthusiasm, Vigor, Energy] Approaching life with excitement and energy; not doing things halfway or halfheartedly; living life as an adventure; feeling alive and activated.

III. Humanity

Interpersonal strengths that involve “feeling” and “befriending” others.

10. Love Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated; being close to people.

11. Kindness [Generosity, Nurturance, Care, Compassion, Altruistic Love, “Niceness”] Doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them.

12. Social Intelligence [Emotional Intelligence, Personal Intelligence] Being aware of the motives and feelings of other people and oneself; knowing what to do to fit into different social situations; knowing what makes other people tick.

IV. Justice

Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life.

13. Citizenship [Social Responsibility, Loyalty, Teamwork] Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group; doing one’s share.

14. Fairness. Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting personal feelings bias decisions about others; giving everyone a fair chance.

15. Leadership. Encouraging a group, of which one is a member, to get things done, and at the same time, maintain good relations within the group; organizing group activities and seeing that they happen.

V. Temperance

Strengths that protect against excess.

16. Forgiveness and Mercy. Forgiving those who have done wrong; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful.

17. Humility/Modesty. Letting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves; not seeking the spotlight.

18. Prudence. Being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted.

19. Self-Regulation [Self-Control] Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one’s appetites and emotions.

VI. Transcendence

Strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning.

20. Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence [Awe, Wonder, Elevation] Noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art, to mathematics & science, and to everyday experience.

21. Gratitude. Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks.

22. Hope [Optimism, Future-Mindedness, Future Orientation]. Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it; believing that a good future is something that can be brought about.

23. Humor [Playfulness] Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes.

24. Spirituality [Faith, Purpose, Religiousness] Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe; knowing where one fits within the larger scheme; having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort.

Creating Your Happiness: Positive Psychology Exercises that WORK.

*** Reference to the novel, “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding Of Happiness and Wellbeing” by Martin E. P. Seligman ***

“We think too much about what goes wrong and not enough about what goes right in our lives. Of course, sometimes it makes sense to analyze bad events so that we can learn from them and avoid them in the future. However, people tend to spend more time thinking about what is bad in life than is helpful. Worse, this focus on negative events sets us up for anxiety and depression. One way to keep this from happening is to get better at thinking about and savoring what went WELL.

For sound evolutionary reasons, most of us are not nearly as good at dwelling on good events as we are at analyzing the bad ones. Those of our ancestors who spent a lot of time basking in the sunshine of good events, when they should have been preparing for a disaster did not survive the Ice Age. So to overcome our brains’ natural catastrophic bent, we need to work on and practice this skill of thinking about what went well.”  The mind is a muscle that needs exercise just like all the others in the body. The more you train the brain to think positive the stronger it will get on focusing on the good in life. And  since positive thoughts inspire positive results, by training your brain in this way you will bring more happiness into your life.

Is your brain ready to train??? Here is one simple exercise that will strengthen your mind, decrease depression, increase wellbeing,  and help you create more happiness in your life.

“The What Went Well Exercise” (Also known as the “Three Blessings”)

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal, your computer, or even your i phone to write about the events, but it’s important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite treat for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up your favorite treat, write, “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store. Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”, you might pick as the cause, “She did everything right during her pregnancy” or “God was looking out for her”.

Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but stay open to it and stick with the challenge for ONE week. It will get easier. And odds are you’ll find yourself happier, less depressed, and totally addicted to this exercise three months from now.

Trust me when I say, I take my own medicine. I have repeated this exercise (along with the Gratitude Journal) often throughout my life to improve my wellbeing and happiness. These exercises WORK. And it is always astonishing to see such dramatic results from the simplest of actions.

This challenge might not make your butt stronger…. but I can guarantee you it will make you happier. Grab a pen and a piece of paper. Start today journaling what went WELL. Let me know if you have any questions and update me on your progress. Im really excited for you to try this exercise and I cant wait to see the positive things that happen as a result.

Hope you have a wonderful week filled with lots of POSITIVE moments! Hope to see you soon for a workshop or workout. Till next time…. keep shining 🙂

With Gratitude,

Caroline

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My Biggest “HIT”.

 

I love sharing my enthusiasm for wellness with you in any and everyway I can. A few years ago I started a YouTube channel as another way to provide workouts, tips, and motivation to others. More than 60 videos later I am happy to have a collection of fitness inspired clips and fun workouts.

YouTube provides detailed insights on video views, demographics, and other fun facts on a regular basis. While most of my YouTube clips stand average in video hits, there is one that stands out by a LONG shot as the most viewed video on my little channel. Suprisingly, it’s not the 10 minute quick fix circuit or the post-run stretch routine. It’s my “free foot exercise video”. I fimed this workout last year to share a few foot strength exercises with others. Apparently this is a special topic of interest and has brought that 6 minute video over 40,000 views. Recently I have been dealing with some foot pain of my own and I revisited the workout to nurse my feet back to health. These simple exercises have helped me (and apparently many others) strengthen their bodies from the ground up. This week I wanted to share all sorts of fun foot information with you and the video that continues to be my “Biggest Hit” for happy feet.

The foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, more than 100 ligaments and more than a dozen muscles. Do you give them the same attention as you give your OTHER fit parts?

Most exercisers are working up a sweat for one reason: to keep the body healthy and fit from head to toe. But if you’re fitness focus is constantly above the ankles, your entire body is missing out. The body is a linkage system (remember the KINETIC CHAIN?) and the FEET are the foundation of that system. If the muscles of the feet aren’t working properly to hold the feet and ankles in correct alignment, it’s a good chance that nothing above the feet is properly aligned either. This results in poor body mechanics and puts extra stress on the joints during movement. The feet can support three times your body weight when walking, seven times your body weight when running, and up to ten times your body weight when jumping. That’s a lot of impact on the feet! Over time, a foot misalignment or poor muscle use can result in foot, ankle, knee, hip, sacro-illiac joint, lower-mid-upper back, shoulder, and neck pain. Seventy-five percent of Americans experience foot health problems. Don’t become one of them. Make foot care a regular part of your routine and stride strong every time you hit the ground.

Before you develop a personal foot health care program, it’s important to get to know your feet first. Feet are a good indicator of overall health. How well do you know yours? Pay attention and notice the following:

  • How do you wear out your shoes?
  • Where do you typically carry the weight on your feet?
  • Where do you have calluses if any?
  • What direction do your toes face?
  • Are the bones of your feet are stacked correctly?
  • Do your shoes fit?
  • How old are your shoes?
  • Do you replace them at least every 6 months?
  • What does your footprint look like?
  • How often to your feet ache?
  • How often do you have foot cramps?
  • Do you have any recurring knee, hip, or back pain?
  • Can you move all the joints of your toes like you move your fingers—freely and easily?
  • When you exercise, do you ever do anything specifically for your toes and feet?

Everyone’s feet are unique and building an awareness of how your feet function will help you create personal foot care program. Your feet work hard everyday and sometimes they pay the consequences. The following is a list of common foot problems:

  • Plantar fasciitis (heel pain). Plantar Fasciitis is a painful condition caused by overuse of the plantar fascia or arch tendon of the foot. Plantar fasciitis commonly causes a sharp heel pain that usually occurs with the very first steps in the morning. Once the foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases, but it may return after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position. Plantar  fasciitis is particularly common in runners, dancers, and sports that involve jumping. It is also found in people who are overweight, women who are pregnant and those who wear shoes with inadequate support. Treatment involves stretching, strengthening, and resting the feet, calves, and Achilles tendon.
  • Stress Fractures. Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone. Stress fractures are caused by the repetitive application of force, or overuse, such as repeatedly jumping or running long distances. Stress fractures are most common in the weight-bearing bones of the lower leg and foot. Track and field, basketball, dance, aerobics, and football athletes are particularly susceptible to stress fractures, but anyone can experience a stress fracture. If you’re starting a new exercise or running program you are at high risk if you do too much too soon. Treatment for stress fractures typically requires rest and time off from activity.
  • Calluses. Calluses are thick, hardened layers of skin that develop when your skin tries to protect itself against friction and pressure. Change footwear to avoid pressure or regularly file calluses down if they start to hurt.
  • Foot Cramps/Tingling/Numbness. Foot cramps can be caused by a weakness and lack of flexibility or mobility in the foot. Improper or poorly fit footwear can also cause foot cramps, tingling, or numbness.
  • Athlete’s Foot. The athlete’s foot fungus thrives in moist, dark places (like your shoes). Take wet socks off immediately after workouts and wear shower shoes in public showers. Always dry your feet thoroughly and see your doctor if you regularly experience itching or burning sensations in your feet.
  • Blisters. Blisters can become painful and affect your ability in all the sports you love. Make sure to wear moisture wicking socks (instead of cotton) and well fitting shoes to prevent blisters. If you do get blisters, cover them with gauze pads instead of bandages.

Help Your Feet Out: Give em a WORKOUT!

A well-balanced workout program and proper hygiene can help you avoid the above conditions from derailing you from your fitness routine. But it also helps to make foot and ankle specific stretching and strengthening a regular part of your weekly regimen. I challenge you to take care of you’re toes with the following exercises. Aim for three times a week, before or after your workout.

  • Toe grip (to strengthen the foot muscles to improve balance): Drop a towel on the floor and use your toes to grip and move it towards you on the floor. Hold for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat five times with each foot.
  • Toe extension (to strengthen and support the muscles, which in turn will protect the bones of the feet): Wrap an elastic band around all five toes. Expand your toes and hold for five seconds; release. Repeat five times on each foot.
  • Toe Stretch: Put foam toe separators (easy to find at the drugstore in the nail polish isle) between your toes and squeeze for five seconds. Repeat 10 times.
  • Calf raise (to strengthen the feet and the calves and improve balance): Stand near a counter or a doorway and hold on lightly for balance. Balance on one foot and rise up onto your toes. Hold for 10 seconds, then lower. Repeat 10 times on each foot.
  • Calf stretch (to keep the Achilles tendons and the plantar fascia from getting tight): Sit with one leg stretched out in front of you and wrap a towel around the ball of the foot. Pull the towel back gently until you feel a stretch in the arch of the foot and the calf. Hold for 10 seconds; release. Repeat five times on each leg.
  • Plantar Fascia Stretch: With your knees on the floor, tuck your toes and sit back on your heels. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds multiple times a day.

Here are a few other tips to help your feet feel strong and fabulous:

  • As soon as you’re done with your workout, get out of your athletic shoes and into roomier shoes to accommodate the swelling that’s happened.
  • Soak you’re feet in cool water or an ice bath to bring down the inflammation or swelling from your workout.
  • Give your self a foot massage. Roll the plantar fascia muscle (arch of the foot) with a golf or tennis ball. Or sweet-talk your significant other to give your toes a quick rub.
  • Replace your workout shoes often. Get new trainers at least every six months. Mark the date of purchase on the heel and track your training. Be sure to watch the wear of the shoe, if the outer sole is worn all the way through, it’s time for a new pair.
  • Give you’re toes some fresh air. Take off your shoes to be barefoot whenever you can.
  • Train your balance. To prevent ankle sprains and to improve proprioception, make balance and stability exercises part of your regular routine.

Want happy feet for life? Get to know your feet and follow these simple stretching and strengthening exercises. Take good care of your ankles, arches, and toes. It can be done in a few minutes a day and just might make the difference in keeping your feet pain and injury free. Exercise specific to foot care can go a long way towards improving all aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Start from the ground up – work your feet for a maximum body benefit!

And without further to do, heres the Footwork Video that will hopefully be a HIT with you too!

Leave a comment below after you try the video – would love to hear how your toes do! Heres to fearless feet and unstoppable fitness from the ground up 🙂

Keep those feet happy! See you soon,

Caroline

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The “Dog Days Of August” Adventure Checklist

The “Dog Days of August” Adventure Checklist. 

Why hello there August! Commonly referred to as “The Dog Days of Summer”, the month is known for being the last chance to soak up sun before the fall season begins. It is also home to some incredibly random holidays like National Mustard Day, National Romance Awareness month,  National Creamsicle Day, and the National Polka Festival. Who knew August could be so incredible? If you’re not ready to do the Polka just yet, I thought I’d share a few other ideas that might inspire a summer adventure or two for you. Live it up and enjoy the “Dog Days of summer” before they are over!

1. Have a Fitness Adventure. Staying in shape during summer doesn’t mean choosing between having fun and staying fit. You can get your motivation revved up just by mixing it up a bit!  And thats exactly what you should do when your fitness motivation starts to dwindle. It’s extremely beneficial to branch away from a fitness routine and find other ways to make your workouts fun. Here are a few fitness adventure ideas for you. Surprise yourself and do something new!

2. Inspire an active work culture.  There are many ways to incorporate more movement into your working days without looking awkward or ticking off your boss. With the knowledge, preparation, and planning you CAN be more active in the office. Here are my TOP tips to fit more fitness into your 9-5. Trust me, every little bit counts and adding extra spurts of activity into your working days adds up! And who knows, showing your commitment to a “feel good” lifestyle might influence others to be active and inspire a healthier work culture. BE the change and make fitness part of your working world routine  🙂

3. Get Your Neon ON. I am a firm believer that life is better IN COLOR. Wearing bright clothing can raise your energy levels, make you smile, and give your workout the boost needed to go the extra mile. Invest in a bit of bright workout gear and bring your wardrobe some cheer. Try  Nike Frees or a hot lululemon athletica racerback to spice up your summer fitness attire. Guarantee all that color will make you smile.

4. Savor Seasonal Produce. Local seasonal foods are tastier, fresher and more nutritious. Why? It’s because the produce has been harvested in the last fews days and has only travelled a short distance to market. This means less packaging, processing and refrigeration. All good for the environment (no flying in food from all corners of the planet)and your health. Here is a list of fruits and veggies that are in season for August: 

    • Apples
    • Apricots
    • Arugula
    • Basil
    • Beans
    • Beets
    • Blueberries
    • Corn
    • Cucumbers
    • Dates
    • Eggplant
    • Fennel
    • Figs
    • Grapes
    • Mangoes
    • Melons
    • Nectarines
    • Okra
    • Peaches
    • Peppers
    • Plums
    • Raspberries
    • Sorrel
    • Summer squash
    • Tomatoes
    • Watermelon

And great all year:

    • Avocados
    • Bananas
    • Broccoli
    • Cabbage
    • Carrots
    • Cauliflower
    • Celery
    • Garlic
    • Ginger
    • Kiwifruit
    • Lemons
    • Limes
    • Mushrooms
    • Onions
    • Pineapple
    • Potatoes
    • Radishes
    • Scallions
    • Snow Peas
    • Spinach
    • Sprouts

Add any of the above to your shopping cart and savor a fresh colorful summer meal with those you love. Try out a few of my favorite ways to add fruits and veggies into daily meals.

5. Get Inspired by the Summer Olympics 2012. Tune in and watch top athletes compete and celebrate the beauty and art of sport. Better yet, invite friends over for a little Olympic get together. Prepare a few healthy snacks and treat yourself to an evening of quality friendships and inspirational athletic events.

6. Commit to consistent strength training. Im a huge advocate of regular strength training. Not only does it provide amazing physical results (sorry cardio queens, you’ll never get the lean muscle mass you want without strength training) it gives you long lasting health benefits. Never strength trained before? Don’t be scared! The American Council on Exercise has an extensive library of weight training moves to guide you. And you can also check out some of these informative posts:

There are lots of good tips and workout ideas in the above articles. I’d also recommend checking out an intro session with a personal trainer or asking if your gym has a free strength training equipment orientation.

 

7. Take A Hike. An active outdoor lifestyle is a great way to stay fit, and hiking is an ideal way to get and stay in shape. Hiking helps to condition your major muscle groups and cardiovascular system. Read my tips on hiking fitness and get a few excellent resources to help you find the right hiking trails for YOU. 

8. Pack A Healthy Snack. Science says snacking is good for you. The 5,000-subject-strong National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that people who ate snacks in addition to three meals a day had higher levels of nutrients in their diets. Healthy snacks are an important part of a balanced diet and can produce ultimate performance. Eating snacks through out the day can keep your energy high and your  blood sugar level from dipping. Planned snacking reduces the likelihood of choosing unhealthy foods, over-eating at meal time, or the experiencing energy “crash and burn”. Not only that, but a smart snack can POWER up your workouts and help you  achieve all your fitness goals and dreams. Here is my list of premium training snacks. Some of them are my favorites… others are client’s top picks. All of these are great to add to your August eats…. did someone say coconut? 😉

9. Get With the Group.  Break out of your workout comfort zone and make new fitness friends with a community workout event. Go to your local sports store or lululemon athletica  and inquire about different events and fitness clubs in your area. There are lots of local run clubs, bootcamps, or fitness classes that would love to have you participate.  I had a BLAST running with lululemon athletica and the SF marathon team’s run club last weekend. Check out all the friendly faces that came to our Shake Out Run in the photos from last weekend. I love making new fitness friends and cant WAIT to do it again 🙂

10. Give Thanks. Practicing gratitude can center you, help you live in the moment, enhance your relationships, help you overcome hurdles, improve your health, and motivate you to reach your goals. Showing gratitude is a great way to spread positive feelings in the world around you. When you think about it, reaching your goals starts with a single positive thought. Feeling grateful for what you have can produce the good feelings that keep you moving towards the happy life you want. A journal is one of the best ways to benefit from the the power of gratitude. Here are my 5 steps towards starting a gratitude journal practice and cultivating more positive into your life. I am a firm believer that regularly practicing gratitude has the power to change your life in ways you never dreamed possible. Challenge yourself to keep a journal for August and fill the month happiness simply by giving thanks.

Looking forward to an amazing month filled with adventure and health! Hope to see YOU soon for an August workout!

With Gratitude,

Caroline

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