In my senior year of high school, I took a literature class about improving happiness and wellbeing. We studied the theories that made us feel good, and implemented each practice on a weekly basis. I went on a social media detox, starting exercising, meditating, and journaling. I was forced to apply all of the self-care habits that doctors and psychologists often advised, and which I often ignored. I no longer could use the excuse of not having enough time. Essentially, it forced me to take care of myself by reflecting on what worked and what didn’t.
One of these exercises consisted of using our strengths as much as possible. A common misconception in our daily routines is to work towards building up our weaknesses. If our strengths are just that, strengths, shouldn’t we practice self-betterment by reinforcing those traits that we aren’t as good at? However, this only provokes insecurities. By using our strengths, we nourish our greatest qualities, thus boosting our confidence and happiness.
The exercise consisted of the character strengths survey (which you can take here!), produced by the VIA Institute, similar to a personality quiz. The end result was a ranking of the 24 character strengths. My top strength was appreciating beauty and excellence.
How could this be a strength? I thought of strengths as perseverance or creativity. Wasn’t this simply an action? I went into the challenge skeptical, but looked for places of beauty throughout my week. I studied outdoors, basking in sunlight and warm weather, and listened to music constantly. I decorated my room, something I had been putting off for weeks. As I hung posters and fairy lights from my walls, I felt more at home in my room than I had felt since we moved there. I went to a flea market, and spent hours just staring at the plethora of randomness before me. I was in awe.
I had always known that I loved Pinterest boards, Spotify playlists, and Sunday flea markets, but now I had an explicit reason for why I enjoyed them so much. I was good at appreciating beauty. Aesthetics didn’t just please the eye, they pleased my mind. I looked at everything around me with an awareness I had never had before. I took every opportunity to be one with my surroundings, and treated the mundane and the special as the same.
Stopping and smelling the roses proved to be true, however cliche it was. Even if this isn’t everyone’s top strength, it is a skill that I am proud to have, and I encourage everyone to implement the practice, as well as to use their own strengths as often as possible. Watch your favorite movie over and over again, cover your walls with posters and pictures that make you happy, and watch every sunset you can. Make every effort to feel good about yourself, and fall back into the childhood wonderment of taking in everything around you to the fullest extent.