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The Values-in-Action (VIA) is a classification system and measurement of strengths created by Christopher Peterson, Ph.D., Martin Seligman, Ph.D., Katherine Dahlsgaard, Ph.D., and other prominent psychologists. Through reading philosophical and religious texts from around the world, 6 core virtues: Wisdom and Knowledge, Courage, Love and Humanity, Justice, Temperance, Spirituality and Transcendence, were identified. These 6 core virtues having been taught or praised by almost all spiritual and philosophical traditions around the world and throughout time.  The reason these 6 virtues are highly regarded is that when practiced they form the foundation for good character in individuals.

Seligman and his colleagues realized that by identifying and utilizing one’s personal strengths, or character traits, one could develop and cultivate virtues.

In creating a classification of strengths, Seligman and his colleagues realized that once strengths are identified, they can then be consciously cultivated and developed.  A strength takes conscious effort to utilize in one’s daily actions. This differs from a talent, which is more innate.  When a strength is used when taking action, the result almost is always virtuous.

There are 24 signatures strengths.  By taking the Values-In-Action (VIA) Survey of Character Strengths, your strengths will be ranked, so that you can identify your top character strengths.

The benefits of utilizing character strengths include:

  • By taking action that utilizes one of your character strengths you will likely experience an increase in positive emotion
  • You will feel a sense of excitement when using your strength
  • You will feel fulfilled and energized by using your strength
  • The more conscious you are in using your strengths, the more and more ways you will come up with ways to cultivate your tops strengths

Feel free to contact me with questions about your strengths and ways to creatively use them. In later posts, I look forward to exploring each of the strengths and suggesting some ways that you can incorporate them into life.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Positive Psychology counseling in Asheville, NC and Phone Consulting for Positive Results

"A Beautiful Day" writing exercise can increase your well-being

"A Beautiful Day" writing exercise can increase your well-being

 Here is a fun, simple, positive psychology intervention to help increase your well-being. I enjoy sharing this exercise with my Asheville psychotherapy clients and individuals who do phone coaching with me.

“A Beautiful Day”*

Instructions: write out what a beautiful, fun, ideal 24-hours would look like to you. Be as detailed as possible. Describe each activity in as much depth as possible. Would you be by yourself or with others? When you describe the meals you eat, what foods are you eating? The idea is to savor and live into what ideal 24-hours would be like to you.

Benefits of “A Beautiful Day” exercise include:
Enjoyment – savoring the enjoyable details of your beautiful day will be uplifting.
Enhanced Self-Awareness – writing about your beautiful day will help you to identify what is most meaningful and enjoyable to you.
Positive Change – Once you identify what is most beautiful and enjoyable to you, you can look at what aspects of your beautiful, ideal day you can implement into your life now. For example, maybe your ideal day involves being away from a cell phone or email. If this is the case, you could schedule a “technology free” day for yourself as a mini vacation.

Enjoy writing about your beautiful day. I would love to hear about your experiences.

*Many thanks to Dr Dianne Vella-Brodrick who introduced this intervention to me at the 2009 First World Congress on Positive Psychology.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Positive Psychotherapy and Phone Coaching
for Business Success and Personal Thriving


Remember To Dream!
Remember To Dream!

So many people have lost hope and have forgotten how to dream. Two of the questions I ask my clients when I counsel them is, “If you could wave a magic wand right now, what would you want your life to be like?” and the question, “What is working in your life right now and how could you have more of this?” These are startling questions for people. Most people have the expectation that because I am a psychologist I am going to ask them to tell me about what is wrong in their lives. However, because I practice Positive Psychology, I focus on helping people to focus on what works in their lives, what their strengths are, and how they can utilize resources to empower themselves.

After people think about my questions they often say, “I don’t know how I want my life to be.” Other times people tell me a very little wish, such as, “I would like to sleep more.” I like to help people not just improve their lives so that they feel “okay” or “better.” Instead, I am passionate about helping people to thrive.

One technique I suggest to rekindle one’s dream or vision is to create a Vision Board. A Vision Board is a large bulletin board or piece of paperboard on which you paste cut out pictures or images of your life vision and dreams. The purpose of a Vision Board is to help your subconscious mind start focusing on how you would like your life to be. For example, if you want to improve your relationship or be in relationship you could cut out images of yourself with your spouse, smiling, and put this on your Vision Board. Or, you could cut out and use a picture from a magazine of a happy couple. If you want to go to Europe, find some pictures of Europe and place them on your Vision Board. If you want to own a new car, find a picture of that car and place on your vision board. If you have a picture of your face, you could even paste that in the window of the car! Your vision board is not just about getting more “stuff.” If you want to experience more calmness and serenity, you could find a picture that represents this emotional state, and put that on your Vision Board. 

There are multiple benefits to creating a Vision Board, focusing on it each day, and feeling what it would be like to experience all that your Vision Board represents to you. These benefits include:

1. Lifting your mood.

2. Orienting your subconscious mind toward what you want to achieve. When athletes mentally visualize themselves performing their sport successfully, over and over, it increases their performance next time they physically engage in their sport.

3. Giving you direction, purpose, and focus for your life. Consider what small step you can do each day to move toward your dreams. Taking this small step will empower you to make your dreams a reality.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D. offers phone coaching, and counseling at her office in Asheville, NC.

Let Go of Stress

Let Go of Stress

I want to share with you some easy tips that I have offered to my clients who come to me for counseling in Asheville, NC.

Your body is brilliant. When faced with a threat it prepares you to fight or run away. This process is called the “fight or flight” response. Our emotional reactions to situations trigger the fight or flight response so that in many individuals it is set off several times a day. Often, each response often lasts much longer than your body can easily handle. This creates wear and tear on the body. According to research conducted by the Mayo Clinic, the end result is that your body is more susceptible to health ailments such as infections, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, depression, insomnia, and memory impairment.

How to Calm Stress
Breathe. Breathing can slow down your thoughts and give you more clarity. It also helps you to be more focused in the present moment, instead of ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.

Make-up a reason that feels good. For example, if your boss is grumpy, instead of worrying about why your boss is grumpy and thinking, “What if she is grumpy because I did something wrong?” Make up a reason that feels better, such as, “Maybe she didn’t sleep well last night.” This is a much more palatable thought and less stress provoking.

Learn to say no. Doing something for someone when you don’t want to, because you believe you will feel guilty if you say “no” to them, is not a healthy foundation from which to offer assistance. Instead, saying “no” when you don’t want to do something or don’t have the time to do it can be an empowering experience. The result is that you reduce your stress and build your self-respect. 

Ask for help when you need it. Asking for and accepting help is not a sign of weakness. Instead, getting help with a task often completes it more quickly and easily. Also, talking to a qualified therapist can be valuable for gaining a different perspective on a situation in your life, and finding solutions for increasing your well-being.

Acceptance. Accepting “what is” helps to reduce stress, whether that is accepting how you are feeling, the fact that it is a rainy day, or that your computer isn’t working. If you let go of needing the current, perceived problem to be some way other than it is, and you accept the fact that in the moment you can’t change it, at least not instantly, you will feel calmer. Moreover, and the answers to solutions often come more easily when you give up struggling.

Take quiet time for yourself. Sitting quietly and breathing, taking a quiet walk, writing in your journal, and listening to your thoughts and feelings are important. When you are too busy to notice how you are feeling inside, that is an easy way to create stress. By listening to your feelings and paying attention to them, you will be less likely to act out impulsively from them. Being more aware of what is going on inside reduces reactivity and enhances conscious choices about your thoughts and behaviors.
Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Positive Psychology in Asheville, NC
Phone Coaching for Personal Growth and Relationship Success

In my private practice counseling clients in Asheville, NC, daily, my clients are coming in and telling me about how difficult things are these days. This is a time of economic hardship for many. Many people are worried about their jobs or desperate because they don’t know how they are going to put food on the table for their family.

Flowers3It is so easy to look at the situations in our lives and feel, “This is the way things are and therefore they are going to continue to be this way for a long time. . .” When this thought goes through your head it is easy to feel that the “bad stuff” in your life, whether that be poor health, the economy, being unemployed, etc.” is out of your control. This can easily lead to a feeling of helplessness.

Control is such an interesting concept. The truth is that there are many things that we are unable to control. We can’t control the weather, what our boss or friend thinks of us, we can’t control the traffic on the road. What we can control is our attitude toward what does happen to us and our expectation we have toward future events in our lives.

Our expectation that we have of future events in our lives is like a story that we tell ourselves that is optimistic or pessimistic. So what story are you telling yourself? Are you telling yourself, “Things are really bad in my life and there is no sign of them getting better anytime soon.”? Or, are you telling yourself, “I am going through a really rough time right now. I don’t like it, but I am going to be okay. I anticipate that things are going to turn around for me soon. I am going to start appreciating what is working in my life and I am going to look for evidence of my life improving!”? Your attitude makes a huge difference. The field of Positive Psychology has conducted research on the benefit of having a positive attitude and of having optimism and hope. Dr. Hilary Tindle, in her research found that optimism is related to increases in health and longevity. Optimism has also been linked to less depression in caregivers.  So think about the story you are telling yourself. Is it optimistic?
Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Positive Psychology in Asheville, NC
Phone Coaching for Personal Growth and Relationship Success

positive psychology asheville, NCOne of approaches I use most prominently with the clients in my Asheville counseling practice is Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology is an emerging focus in the field of psychology.  The focus of Positive Psychology is on researching and then implementing findings on what supports individuals, communities and countries to thrive.

I was very fortunate to attend the first World Congress on Positive Psychology in Philadelphia, June 18th through the 21st. The energy of being in a conference with over 15,000 positive individuals all focused on learning about positive psychology and the latest developments in researching well-being was electrifying.

One of the most well-researched Positive Psychology interventions to reduce depressive symptoms and to increase well-being is the 3 Blessings exercise. To try this exercise, each evening before you go to bed, write down 3 things that went well that day and why they went well.

Feel free to share with me your experience of doing this exercise, by leaving a comment below.

I look forward to sharing more positive psychology tools and resources in upcoming posts.

For information about counseling sessions in Asheville, NC or consulting and coaching sessions by phone go to Deborah Barnett’s psychology website.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.