Character Training Improves Life Satisfaction and Happiness

By Sharon Moore on June 15, 2012

Character strengths refer to the traits which are known to be morally positive. Past studies have linked practising character strengths to life satisfaction. But it was not until recently that such claim was proven. In a large-scale study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, scientists for the first time proved that training character strengths improves feeling of wellbeing and makes people happier.

Character Strengths and Wellbeing

Researchers from the University of Zurich lead by Willibald Ruch, René T. Proyer and Claudia Buschor looked at the effects of strength character training. They randomly divided a sample of 178 adults into three groups. The first group received training to improve several values which include gratitude, curiosity, humour, enthusiasm, and optimism. The second group were trained to enhance their sense of appreciation, kindness, creativity, foresight and love for knowledge. The third group served as the control group, which received no training at all.

The first two groups underwent a series of exercises for 10 weeks. Said exercises were composed of activities that participants can easily incorporate in their daily lives. For instance, when they were trained to improve their sense of gratitude, participants were asked to make thank-you cards and give it to someone they are very grateful about. Their appreciation to beauty was enhanced by allowing the participants to pay attention to the situations or moments they admired something beautiful, and so on.

Benefits of Training Character Strengths

The results were outstanding. The researchers saw a significant increase in how satisfied the respondents from the first and second group were about their lives as compared to the control group, although the first group mainly benefited from the training. According to Professor Ruch from the personality psychology and diagnostics department, anyone who trained one or more strengths reported an increase in their sense of wellbeing. The participants who went through strength character training were also found to improve their mood and learned how to control their emotions and actions.

Positive psychology is a new branch of psychology with focus on understanding and developing effective methods to build ‘thriving’ individuals, families, and communities. In positive psychology, character strengths play a crucial role in helping people discover what makes their life worth living or what makes their life satisfying and happier.

 

Sources of this article:

René T. Proyer, Willibald Ruch and Claudia Buschor. Testing strengths-based interventions: A preliminary study on the effectiveness of a program targeting curiosity, gratitude, hope, humor, and zest for enhancing life satisfaction. Journal of Happiness Studies (in press).

Training character strengths makes you happy, University of Zurich

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