Published on 07 December 2020
You could say we need him more than ever as 2020 draws to a close.
Meet Willibald Ruch, a professor of positivity who can make us all feel a bit better as we head towards a new year.
An academic at the University of Zurich, he is also an Honorary Visiting Professor of Positive Psychology at the University of Sunderland.
Positive psychology studies examine what makes life worth living the most and how we can all achieve it.
Rather than the psychologists who look at improving the life of someone who is below par, the idea of positive psychology is to look at ways of getting someone who is generally doing ok to doing things that can improve their life satisfaction and well-being.
Professor Ruch said: “At times like now, it is important to maintain a focus on the positive.
“Covid-19 and the lockdown brought about challenges and we want to cope with this. We know of things that can really help: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment plus optimism, resilience, physical activity, nutrition and sleep.
“We also know that a person’s character strengths also help - we distinguish 24 such character strengths.
“It is important to build on your own strengths in times when we have to face things the pandemic. Keeping ones’ humour, feeling gratitude, and using your own strengths can be helpful during difficult times.”
Professor Ruch identifies the 24 key strengths as:
Beauty; Bravery; Creativity; Curiosity; Fairness; Forgiveness; Gratitude; Honesty; Hope; Humour; Kindness; Leadership; Laughing out Loud; Love; Modesty; Open-mindedness; Perseverance; Perspective; Prudence; Social Intelligence; Spirituality; Self-Regulation; Teamwork; Zest.
Professor Ruch continues: “Just by chatting to friends about past times which were fun can help to ward off negative feelings. It’s important to learn what your signature strengths are and build your life around them.
“Our research showed that using your signature strengths more often increases happiness and decreases depression.
“At work people report more work satisfaction and wellbeing when they can use at least four of their top strength and they also see work more as a calling than merely as a way to earn money or make career.
“We also found that character strengths are involved in satisfaction with school, work, like relationships etc. Using our strengths is key.”
In positive psychology, which was developed around 20 years ago, people are asked to consider which factors make life worth living.
According to the theory, a good life consists of many different elements. And strengths of character should help to achieve it. The idea is to use your own strengths to increase your well-being.
Professor Ruch said: “Some people see a lot of things negatively – but you should only allow yourself to do that when you're doing well.
“If you feel worse, you should concentrate even more on your strengths. When people pay more attention to strengths in themselves, or others, or give more compliments, positive emotions occur between people, because the other side feels understood and connected.
“So, it really is a good idea to pick up the phone and thank someone who has done something you appreciate. Not only is it good for them but good for you too.”