A new large-scale study has found that practicing positive moral character traits improves personal well-being. The study epitomizes the emerging field of positive psychology, a discipline that investigates what make life worth living.
Investigators from the University of Zurich found the largest benefits of practicing positive traits occurred when an individual received training on “curiosity”, “gratitude”, “optimism”, “humor” and “enthusiasm”.
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.
This new study proved that training to improve character strengths enhances life satisfaction and increases the sense of well-being.
For the study, researchers randomly divided a sample of 178 adults into three groups: While one group trained or practiced personality strengths of “curiosity”, “gratitude”, “optimism”, “humor” and “enthusiasm” for a period of ten weeks, the second group worked with the strengths “appreciation of beauty”, “creativity”, “kindness”, “love of learning” and “foresight”.
The third group served as a control and did not do any exercises.
The authors of the study recorded three main results:
- The group that practiced curiosity, gratitude, optimism, humor and enthusiasm displayed a significant increase in life satisfaction compared to the control group.
- Both groups benefited from the training sessions. “Anyone who trained one or more character strengths reported an increase in their sense of wellbeing,” concludes Willibald Ruch, a professor of personality psychology and diagnostics. “This manifested itself in the fact that these participants were more cheerful or more often in a good mood, for instance.”
- The third finding was that people who learned to control their actions and feelings more effectively during the training period and developed more enthusiasm benefited most from the training.
The training exercises consisted of activities that the test subjects could easily incorporate into their daily routine.
For example, individuals practiced gratitude by writing a thank-you letter to someone who had played an important role in their lives and trained their appreciation of beauty by paying attention to moments and situations in which they felt admiration for something beautiful.
Individuals also learned to express gratitude to people possessing special abilities and talents.
Character strengths and their connection with wellbeing is an important research field in positive psychology. This new research thread focuses on positive characteristic or traits.
In recent years, experts have directed their study toward discovering what makes life most worth living – what constitutes life satisfaction.
Experts say this emerging research directions of positive psychology focuses on topics that have long been neglected by psychology.
Source: University of Zurich