Happiness has 3 main components: a genetically pre-determined set point (50%), environmental factors (10%), and intentional activities (%40). As Abraham Lincoln said, “folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be” is true, at least 40% of the time. What types of intentional activities can we do to increase our happiness? One possibility is to strengthen in certain key virtues.
To strengthen in a virtue, practical tasks were completed. So for example learning new things strengthened the virtue of curiosity, and writing a letter of thanks to someone who had been helpful deepened gratitude.
As you would expect, the group that practiced the virtues that were more strongly related to life satisfaction had greater gains. However both of these groups had increases in overall levels of life satisfaction, especially when compared to a group that did not receive any intervention.
The lesson here is that practicing any of these virtues can improve overall well-being and happiness, just to varying degrees. So take the time to be kind, to appreciate beauty, to learn something new. Who knows, you might just end up with a smile on your face. Curiosity may not be good for the cat, but it's good for you!
Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology. doi:10.1037/1089-26126.96.36.199
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Proyer, R., Ruch, W., & Buschor, C. (2013). 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. 14(1), 275-293. doi:10.1007/s10902-012-9331-9.