What personal traits and characteristics do you have that fill you with energy and excitement? What activities enhance your sense of meaning and engagement in life? The answer to these questions can give you some insight into your strengths of character. We all have unique character strengths that when incorporated into our daily life allow us to flourish and function more optimally. On the same note, research has consistently shown that applying these strengths in different life domains is one of the most effective ways to enhance well-being. The ideal is to use these as often as you can in work, family, and leisure. This can take some creativity and thinking outside of the box, but there are many novel ways to live by these virtues. We each have our own unique combination of psychological strengths, though research has shown that there are certain virtues which relate to increased life-satisfaction in general. This post provides the 6 strengths that have been shown to directly relate to life-satisfaction, though I would encourage you to visit www.authentichappiness.org to take the VIA (Values in Action) assessment. It’s free and will provide you a list of your personal top strengths.
Top 6 strengths for producing happiness
Below you will find an explanation of the 6 character strength that are strongly related to life-satisfaction, along with suggestions to develop these strengths. The suggestions are adapted from work by Jon Haidt, Ph.D. of the University of Virginia.
Hope is a state where we remain diligent and steadfast in the face of adversity. A hopeful person can see different options and avenues to reach their goals, and they have faith things will turn out okay. Tips for using this strength:
- Keep a journal , and every night, record a decision you made that will have a positive impact on your life in the long run.
- Write and collect quotations or reaffirming statements and read these as a reminder that you will succeed at whatever you put your mind to.
- When you’re in a bad situation, turn it around to find the good. Notice your negative thoughts, and counter them with positive thoughts.
This is a state of mind where we have passion and enthusiasm for life. A zestful person wants to get the most out of life, is full of energy, and open to new experiences. Tips for using this strength:
- Do something physically vigorous in the morning (e.g., jog, push-ups). Note how you feel ten minutes later, an hour later.
- Get a good nights sleep and eat a good breakfast, to give yourself more energy during the day.
- Take up a greater interest in others’ work, such as volunteering to help on a project that excites you.
- While eating or drinking something, concentrate on the taste and sensations. Try to appreciate every aspect of that food or drink.
A curious person takes an interest in learning about and understanding new things. They may be adventurous and seek to explore unfamiliar territory, or be more introverted though consistently discovering new ideas through knowledge. Tips for using this strength:
- Pick one object in your room and devise another use for it rather than it’s intended use.
- Find a new word everyday and use it creatively in conversation or writing.
- Decorate a room or your workspace in a new way.
- Work on a poem, picture, or other form of art and submit it to a magazine or newspaper.
This is a state of appreciation and being thankful for what you have. Gratitude is about focusing on the good things in life instead of fixating on all the things you don’t like or wish you had. Tips for using this strength:
- Keep a journal, and each night, make a list of three things that you are thankful for in life.
- Every day, thank someone for something that you might otherwise take for granted.
- Keep a record of all the times you use the words “thank you,” or send an someone a “thank you” e-greeting card.
- Leave a note for your friend, family, or partner thanking them for something you appreciate about them.
This strength of character involves a strong emotional connection to others. This relates to being able and willing to both give and receive love. Tips for using this strength:
- Give loved ones a big hug and a kiss
- Tell spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/sibling/parent that you love them
- Write a nick note where someone you love will find it sometime during the day. Do this in a new place, or for a new person, every day.
6. Forgiveness and Mercy
Forgiveness is crucial to our well-being. Letting go grudges and offering people a second chance can help clean up relationships and remove negativity and bitterness. Tips for using this strength:
- Think of someone that you found it hard to forgive. Try to see the situation from their perspective. Then consider, if you had been the one to do the offensive act, would you have expected to be forgiven?
- When someone does something that you do not understand, try to put yourself in their shoes, and understand his or her intentions in the action.
- Make contact with someone who has made you mad in the past. Let them know that you forgive them, or just be kind to them in your conversation.
These are a few examples of how to incorporate these strengths into your life more often. Remember to visit www.authentichappiness.org to take the actual assessment, and to explore how you relate to the entire list of 24 strengths. Whether you choose to incorporate the 6 strengths discussed in this post or to incorporate your personal top 5, think of other creative ways to increase the time and amount of energy you give to these strengths, and you will be more productive and happy because of it.
This is where I provide my personal connection to the ideas in the post. I hope you will join the conversation by leaving a comment, and offering your personal connection to these ideas as well. I completed the VIA strengths assessment a few years ago, and have been building on my strengths ever since. I can attest that it really does make a difference with my mood when I use these on a daily basis. At the time I completed the assessment my top 5 strengths were: love of learning, curiosity, social intelligence, appreciation of excellence and beauty, and persistence. Here is how I have and currently do incorporated these into my life. Love of learning: I read voraciously, and am constantly doing research for my writing, coaching, counseling, and speaking. Spending time at book stores, listening to audio programs and podcasts, and attending seminars is simply rejuvenating for me. Curiosity: I am a people watcher at heart. I am always curious about what other people do and how they ended up where they are in life. I love trying and exploring new creative things that I learn about, whether it be with food, music, or knowledge in general. Social intelligence: Fortunately, I am in a fitting professional field when it comes to coaching and counseling. I get to meet new people and learn about what motivates and inspires them. Simply put, I enjoy helping people find direction, feel connected, and start recognizing their potential. Appreciation for beauty and excellence: Art, music, and nature have always been something that I connect with at a deep level. I play the drums a few days a week, write music, and enjoy attending all types of live performances. I also really get excited about art and design, and though I don’t have the skill to actually create it at a pure level, I love being a part of creative projects where this is the case. Perseverance: I am highly driven by goals and achievement. I get great fulfillment when I complete a project, task, or objective. Because of this I have learned that having goals to work toward is crucial for my well-being and fulfillment. Reference Peterson, C., Ruch, W., Beermaan, U., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2007). Strengths of character, orientations to happiness, and life satisfaction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2 (3), 149-156.