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Updated Jun 26, 2012 - 12:51 pm

Want to be happy? Practice these 5 traits

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.

SIDEBAR:

Strengthen your character: Practice these 5 traits

Curiosity

  • 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.

Optimism

  • 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.

Gratitude

  • 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.

Humor

  • 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.

Enthusiasm

  • 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.

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