If you want to increase your happiness, one way is through nurturing your character strengths. Positive psychology has identified 24 strengths which can be divided into 6 distinct virtues. All of these strengths can be developed. A great deal of research has gone into looking into these strengths and how they can benefit happiness and wellbeing. Carrying out tasks and activities that provide you with opportunities to exercise your strengths are sure to make you feel good and give you more flow experiences. Consciously using these strengths will move you away from engaging in passive activities so frequently (eg watching television).
In this article I will talk about the strengths which make up the virtue ‘justice’: citizenship, fairness and leadership. Seligman suggests that for happiness we use those strengths which are our signature strengths. To discover your signature strengths, I suggest you visit the Authentic Happiness website and take the VIA survey. There is a feel good factor in working with our strengths. However you may have something you want to nurture. As such I offer a tip to enhance each strength.
People who have citizenship as a strength are loyal and have a great sense of duty. They make good team members and work to ensure the best outcome for the group. Such people have a sense of commitment to any group they are part of, whether it is their country, community, workplace, family or sports team. A good team player will make personal sacrifices for the good of the group. This may be one of your strengths if you find your best work in a team.
Tip: Develop your sense of citizenship by volunteering your time. You can help out your neighbour or an organisation that is important to you. Volunteer work is one of the quickest routes to happiness.
Fairness and equity
People with a strong sense of fairness like to give everyone a chance. Everyone must be treated fairly and injustice frustrates and horrifies. Such people set aside their personal prejudices and will see the good in others. This may be your strength if you are the sort of person that makes sure each person has an equal share of the cake. You offer no favouritism and such favouritism provokes you.
Tip: Have the courage to stand up to someone you know who openly displays prejudicial opinions about particular groups in society. To not speak up will be to concur with what they are saying.
Leadership is about being able to organise a group and work to see things through to completion. Essential to being a good leader is having excellent interpersonal skills. A good leader works to make sure everyone’s role within the group is valued. Goals are achieved without coercion or manipulation.
Tip: Practise your leadership skills within your family. Organise an event from start to finish. It could be an anniversary celebration, birthday party, or a day out. Ask for help if needed but remember you are the one coordinating the event.