Emotional Crosstraining for Happiness

Life satisfaction linked to strengthening of certain attributes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Volumes have been written on the topic of happiness, and for good reason. Everyone wants to be satisfied with their life. While there is no magical pill to increase life satisfaction, specialized training may help.

A new study has found that strengthening certain human characteristics may increase life satisfaction.

The characteristics are known as Values In Action (VIA) character strengths, and those who practiced strengthening these characteristics showed an improvement in life satisfaction over a ten week course.

"Ask your psychologist for ways to increase life satisfaction."

The study was led by René T. Proyer, assistant professor of psychology at University of Zurich, Switzerland. The researchers asked 178 adults (73 male, 105 female) to participate in the study. Participants were separated into three groups.

The first group was assigned to classes that would strengthen VIA character strengths, the second group was assigned to classes for other non-VIA strengths and the third group was not assigned to any classes.

VIA character strengths included curiosity, gratitude, optimism, humor and enthusiasm. Non-VIA characteristics included appreciation of beauty, creativity, kindness, love of learning and foresight.

Exercises consisted of activities that subjects could easily incorporate into their daily routines. For example, ‘thank you’ letter writing exercises and becoming more aware of situations in which they felt admiration towards something.

Life satisfaction was measured before and after the 10 week study in all three groups using a self-reporting questionnaire called the Satisfaction with Life (SWL) scale.

The researchers found that those who took part in the VIA classes reported a significant increase on the SWL scale after the sessions were over.

However, those in the non-VIA classes also showed a slight increase.

"Anyone who trained one or more strengths reported an increase in their sense of well being," said Willibald Ruch, also from the University of Zurich. "This manifested itself in the fact that these participants were more cheerful or more often in a good mood, for instance."

The study was published online in June 2012 in the Journal of Happiness Studies and was funded by the University of Zurich and the Suzanne and Hans Biäsch Foundation for Applied Psychology.

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Review Date: 
June 20, 2012
Last Updated:
November 19, 2012