SALT LAKE CITY — Want to be happy? Then be happy.
This isn’t a riddle. This advice is science-based and backed by a new study that says practicing positive character traits like looking on the bright side and using humor can actually boost your well-being.
According to a release on the study, “Character strengths can be defined as traits that are rated as morally positive. That they are positively linked to life satisfaction has already been shown in many studies. That they have a causal effect on life satisfaction and that practicing them triggers an increase in the sense of wellbeing, however, has now been proved.”
In the study, conducted by professors from the University of Zurich and published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, researchers divided 178 participants into three groups. The first group was told to practice the character traits of curiosity, optimism, gratitude, humor and enthusiasm. The second group was told to practice creativity, kindness, foresight, appreciation of beauty and love of learning. The third group wasn’t given any traits to practice. For 10 weeks, the groups practiced their traits by doing things like writing a thank-you note to someone important in their lives or paying attention in moments when they were touched by something beautiful.
While the first and second groups both benefited from the character strength training, the researchers saw a significant increase in life satisfaction in the first group.
"This manifested itself in the fact that these participants were more cheerful or more often in a good mood, for instance," said Willibald Ruch, a professor of personality psychology and diagnostics involved in the study.
Another finding of the study was that people who learned to control their actions and feelings and developed more enthusiasm by doing these training exercises in their daily lives benefited most.
Strengthen your character: Practice these 5 traits
- Delve deeper into a subject you may have glossed over or taken for granted. Read articles or books that cover a different angle than one you’re familiar with. Ask questions and follow where they lead.
- Try to find at least one good thing in every situation. Think of ways in which even the worst experiences could turn out for the better or make you stronger, and believe that they will happen.
- Even if you take the time to be grateful for the big things, you may be overlooking the countless little things that fill your life. Start a gratitude journal by recording three good things you appreciate each day. Try to make them things you’ve never stopped to notice before.
- Take a break to read or watch something funny. Give yourself permission to laugh and enjoy something silly, like an old cartoon you enjoyed as a child.
- Allow yourself to get caught up in the moment, whether it be at a sporting event, while working on a creative project or when dreaming about the future. Feed off the energy of others, and don’t censor your emotions. Let your excitement shine through.