Linking positive psychology and the transtheoretical model: How character strengths and processes of change relate to each other and to exercise

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Cheryl P. Stuntz


The transtheoretical model promotes exercise and other health behaviors by matching specific processes of change (PoC) to an individual’s current stage of change. Similarly, positive psychology confirms that building signature character strengths is associated with greater happiness and less depression. However, past work has not examined how strengths use, PoC, and exercise stage of change are associated or the potential causal direction between constructs. Participants (N = 344) completed an online survey assessing character strengths, PoC, and exercise stage of change. Novel groupings of exercise-specific strengths were found. Use of all fortitude strengths (i.e., self-regulation, perseverance, zest, perspective, appreciation of beauty, hope, leadership, bravery, and gratitude), some of the cognitive strengths (i.e., love of learning, curiosity, creativity, and bravery) and interpersonal strengths (i.e., love and leadership), but none of the self-modulation strengths associated with later stage of change. Multiple structural equation models were compared, showing (a) character strengths and PoC use are linked and (b) strengths are better predictors of PoC than PoC are of strengths. Building fortitude strengths may increase behavioral PoC for physically active people and associate with more regular exercise, and building self-modulation strengths (e.g., prudence, modesty) may increase experiential PoC among non-active individuals.

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