As part of our special series on Character Strengths, we are posting articles that highlight the 24 strengths (your best innermost qualities) outlined by the VIA Institute on Character, and discussing how to better apply them in your everyday life. To take the free survey and find your own top strengths, click here.
When you think of zest, you might imagine a co-worker who is always eager and wired, even first thing in the morning. Or, you might picture the Energizer Bunny pounding its drum or a person singing and dancing in the rain. These images are a bit extreme for the character strength of zest, which might explain why most people don’t especially relate to it.
But, zest is important for all of us. It means to activate yourself, to live life fully. It is one of two character strengths (along with hope) that is most connected to happiness. Zest brings many benefits such as greater meaning, better physical health and a higher level of engagement in life. While we can’t all be zestful Energizer Bunnies, each of us can naturally come alive with energy.
Consider this: What situations bring out your zest? Maybe it’s anytime you are around your children or grandchildren. Or maybe it’s when you get to spend time on a work project you love. Or perhaps practicing your favorite hobby. We all have moments in which a higher amount of energy is flowing within and from us. And, if you are mindful of these moments, you can create more.
What does the research say about how to build zest? Here are three practical strategies:
1. Talk about the good:
When something good happens to you, share it verbally with someone and not just through social media. Research shows that frequently sharing positive events boosts your energy and zest.
2. Find nature during the day:
Take your work breaks outdoors, whenever possible. Research shows that going outside, especially in nature, boosts zest. If you aren’t working, be sure to arrange bits of your day that involve going outside.
3. Activate your behavior:
Think of the exercise/activity that you find most pleasurable. Be sure to consider the many varieties of movement such as yoga, tai chi, walking, dancing, swimming, biking and sports. Structure your week so you can do this one specific activity a few times per week.