4 Unique Ways to Ease Stress and Savor Life
By Sandy Schroeder
The word “stress” has become hardwired into our culture. We are often told to make it go away with a few easy steps, but there may be a more unique approach.
Dr. Martin Seligman, director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center, suggests we create contentment in our lives, finding purpose and learning how to reach beyond immediate pleasures. This may cement great relationships, create rewarding work, and reveal a true purpose in what we do.
That’s a lot to hope for, but Dr. Seligman tells us how to try it in a recent New York Times interview.
Spot your best strengths – Think about a favorite time in your life when you were absolutely thriving. Identify what you did very well. You may have been loyal, passionate, inventive, perceptive, gentle, giving, or kind. Write it down, explaining how you used those qualities to make life work.
Look ahead – How could you use those strengths in your current world? Could you bring a brilliant new idea to your job, help your neighborhood organize gifts for the recent disaster victims, or help someone you know find their way back from depression? Each week, take one of your strengths and put it into play at work, at home, or in your community. Dr. Seligman says his research showed people who effectively used their strengths gradually felt less depressed and much more satisfied with life.
Take a daily reading – As the evening quiets each day, pick out three good things that went really well, and figure out why they were so successful. Looking for the positive may help you sleep better, creating another round of good things the next day.
Say thank you – Think back to times in your career, classes, or interactions with relatives to remember someone who helped you. Compose a thoughtful letter, and tell that person what they did for you. Then, if you can, meet with them, read the letter and share the moment. Talking with a former boss, an aging relative, or a former teacher can be a memorable experience, helping you see your place in life, and letting them know just how valuable they have been.
A dear friend of mine has taught community college for a number of years. In the last class of the quarter, he always asks his students to give him a short summary of what they did or did not like about the class. Over the years, he has received some amazing responses, such as, “I will never forget you. You helped me believe in myself.” Another one said, “You listened when no one else bothered.”
We all need to bother more and stress less, reaching out again and again to connect.
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