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Apr 6, 2020

Welcome to episode 32.  As promised, while the current Coronavirus situation continues to evolve and provide us with challenges, in each episode I will share with you a simple activity that you (or your pupils or your own children) can do to support your wellbeing.

As many of us are spending more time in homes we share with other people, we may be getting to a point where we are more easily irritated and where rows might erupt.  Here is an activity that may help - it is best suited to adults or older children and teens as it requires quite a deep level of reflection. 

This activity is adapted from Ryan Niemiec’s book Character Strengths Interventions: A field guide for practitioners (1).  Either do this as a solo reflection activity - you may wish to write down your answers (be as detailed as possible, take your time) - or you can pair up with someone, ideally not someone closely linked to the person the activity relates to.  Perhaps pair up with a friend or colleague via phone or video call and take it in turns to talk through your answers while the other person listens.

  1. Start off by thinking of a person that has hurt or offended you and think clearly about that person and the thing they have said or done that caused you hurt or offence.
  2. Look at the person and their imperfections in light of the complexity of being human - as a human being they have flaws and character strengths (see the VIA Institute on Character for more information on character strengths.
    1. What character strengths (however small) do you see in that person?
    2. Was the thing they said or did perhaps a display of one of their character strengths which they may have been over-using or using inappropriately?
    3. If you can, view this person as someone that needs to experience positive growth and transformation, or that perhaps is already working on this but gets it wrong sometimes.
  3. Now think about yourself:
    1. What character strengths did you show while the ‘offence’ took place?
    2. What character strengths are you showing right now?

This activity guides us, via the use of character strengths, through a process called “positive reappraisal” which Ryan Niemic describes as “a type of meaning-based coping”.  This enables us to add perspective and balance to situations, events and our views of other people and can help us change our perception from unpleasant or stressful to harmless and possibly even beneficial.  Take the current Coronavirus pandemic, for example. Whilst the situation is undoubtedly difficult and traumatic - and for some far more than others - I have experienced many unexpected benefits and, judging by conversations and social media posts, so have many of you.  From more time connecting with people because we make a special effort to chat on the phone or via Skype/Zoom etc, to experimenting in the kitchen, to making a conscious effort to exercise, there are many things we are now doing that we weren’t doing consistently or appreciating as much before.  And for that, at least, I am hugely grateful.  Looking at these positive aspects (whilst not negating the trauma, loss and hardship we are going through) is one form of positive reappraisal.

According to research by Folkman (2), reappraising stressful situation (even when the stress is severe or distressing) through a more positive lens can improve our mood (or what psychologists call “positive affect”).  When it comes to situations that have caused offence, such as in the exercise I suggest today, reappraising the situation with compassion can replace negative emotions with positive ones and can help us forgive (3).

Let me know via @FlourishingED on Twitter how you get on with this week’s activity and how you are.  I’d love to hear from you!

Do also get in touch if you’d like to contribute content to this podcast as a guest, particularly if you’d like to share one or more activities that can help children, parents or other teachers at this difficult time.

Also look out for a special edition longer episode of the For Flourishing’s Sake podcast - it is coming soon, I promise! -  which is the audio of a virtual panel that I hosted the week before last.

I look forward to catching up with you next week.  Until we speak again, be safe, be well and For Flourishing’s Sake, have as great a week as it’s currently possible to have!



  1. Niemiec, R. M. (2018). Character Strengths Interventions: A field guide for practitioners. Boston, MA and Goettingen: Hogrefe Publishing.
  2. Folkman, S. (1997). Positive psychological states and coping with severe stress. Social Science and Medicine, 45(8), 1207–1221.
  3. vanOyen Witvliet, C., DeYoung, N., Hofelich, A., & DeYoung, P. (2011). Compassionate reappraisal and emotion suppression as alternatives to offense-focused rumination: Implications for forgiveness and psychophysiological well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(4), 286–299.


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