Article by Dr Janina Scarlet
What would you do if you suddenly developed superpowers? Most people say that they would help others – save people from accidents, rescue others from disasters, or heal those who are ill. In short, most people say that that if they developed superpowers they would want to use them to help people.
There are actually numerous ways in which you can boost your own superhero strengths and improve your quality of life.
- Gratitude. Connection with your happy memories is not only a magical Patronus charm from ‘Harry Potter.’ Experiencing and expressing gratitude can in fact boost our physical and mental health. Some examples of experiencing gratitude are to write down 1-3 things you are grateful for that day. It is especially helpful if you are able to go into details about a particular event or a memory that you are grateful about.
Another gratitude practice is sending a text, an email, or a handwritten letter to someone to whom you are grateful. This practice can be beneficial for both the sender and the recipient, creating a boost of positive emotions, some of which can help not only with depression, but also with inflammation, according to some studies.
- Self-Compassion. This superpower refers to practicing the same kind of kindness and compassion toward ourselves as we would toward a loved one. The purpose of self-compassion is to give us the support that we need to provide us with resilience to meet our core values. For example, a practice of self-compassion might be to take a break from work or studying so that our body and our brain might rest, allowing us the mental and physical strength to be ale to get back to it later. Self-compassion is also a key element in burnout prevention, often seen in caretakers or people who work too many hours. In this case, self-compassion is equivalent to allowing our bodies to supercharge while resting or doing something enjoyable in order to ensure that we have the strength to take care of our responsibilities afterward.
- Social Connection. Spending time with our friends, family members, pets, and other loved ones can help people feel happier, healthier, and live longer. Engaging with people we care about can actually lead to neurochemical changes in our bodies, such as increased levels of the ‘feel-good’ endorphins, oxytocin, and dopamine molecules, creating a kind of superpower within ourselves.
- Ability to be Ourselves. One of the hardest superhero personas we can embody is that of being true to ourselves instead of acting the way others expect us to. Yet one of the top regrets of the dying has to do with pretending to be someone we are not. If you had to be true to yourself for one day, what would that entail?
- Cats, dogs, and other mammals play with humans or with one another their entire lives. Yet, many of us believe ourselves to have outgrown playfulness. Play behavior can be extremely important in social connection, and can serve as a mood enhancer and a resiliency booster.
- Willingness to Take Chances. It takes a lot of courage to try something new, something meaningful, such as telling someone how we feel about them or applying for our dream job. However, at the end of their lives few people regret the chances they took, while many regret the chances they did not take. Taking chances and trying new things can create new opportunities, as well as boost our courage superpower to make us more resilient in the face of adversity.
- Not Working So Hard. This one might seem counterintuitive. Of course, we need to work hard. However, sometimes we might put work above everything else. We might put deadlines above sleep, above date nights, above quality time with family, school plays, and swim meets. On the other hand, being able to set a healthy boundary while spending time with other meaningful activities is another superpower on your utility belt.
- Sense of Purpose/Legacy. Every superhero needs a story. Some of us have an idea of how we want to be remembered after we die, a kind of legacy we would like to leave behind. If there was a movie or a comic book made about you and your life, what would you want it to be about?
Every day, every situation presents another opportunity to enhance your superpowers. You might not know it, you might not always feel like it, but you are already a superhero. Don’t forget your cape.
Dr Janina Scarlet is a clinical psychologist and the author of Therapy Quest a revolutionary self-help book which combines therapy with an interactive fantasy quest.