The Top 6 Strengths for Producing Happiness

What personal traits and characteristics do you have that fill you with energy and excitement?

What activities enhance your sense of meaning and engagement in life?

The answer to these questions can give you some insight into your strengths of character. We all have unique character strengths that when incorporated into our daily life allow us to flourish and function more optimally.

On the same note, research has consistently shown that applying these strengths in different life domains is one of the most effective ways to enhance well-being.

The ideal is to use these as often as you can in work, family, and leisure. This can take some creativity and thinking outside of the box, but there are many novel ways to live by these virtues.

We each have our own unique combination of psychological strengths, though research has shown that there are certain virtues which relate to increased life-satisfaction in general.

This post provides the 6 strengths that have been shown to directly relate to life-satisfaction, though I would encourage you to visit to take the VIA (Values in Action) assessment.

It’s free and will provide you a list of your personal top strengths.

Top 6 strengths for producing happiness

Below you will find an explanation of the 6 character strength that are strongly related to life-satisfaction, along with suggestions to develop these strengths. The suggestions are adapted from work by Jon Haidt, Ph.D. of the University of Virginia.

1. Hope

Hope is a state where we remain diligent and steadfast in the face of adversity. A hopeful person can see different options and avenues to reach their goals, and they have faith things will turn out okay.

Tips for using this strength:

  • Keep a journal , and every night, record a decision you made that will have a positive impact on your life in the long run.
  • Write and collect quotations or reaffirming statements and read these as a reminder that you will succeed at whatever you put your mind to.
  • When you’re in a bad situation, turn it around to find the good. Notice your negative thoughts, and counter them with positive thoughts.

2. Zest

This is a state of mind where we have passion and enthusiasm for life. A zestful person wants to get the most out of life, is full of energy, and open to new experiences.

Tips for using this strength:

  • Do something physically vigorous in the morning (e.g., jog, push-ups). Note how you feel ten minutes later, an hour later.
  • Get a good nights sleep and eat a good breakfast, to give yourself more energy during the day.
  • Take up a greater interest in others’ work, such as volunteering to help on a project that excites you.
  • While eating or drinking something, concentrate on the taste and sensations. Try to appreciate every aspect of that food or drink.

3. Curiosity

A curious person takes an interest in learning about and understanding new things. They may be adventurous and seek to explore unfamiliar territory, or be more introverted though consistently discovering new ideas through knowledge.

Tips for using this strength:

  • Pick one object in your room and devise another use for it rather than it’s intended use.
  • Find a new word everyday and use it creatively in conversation or writing.
  • Decorate a room or your workspace in a new way.
  • Work on a poem, picture, or other form of art and submit it to a magazine or newspaper.

4. Gratitude

This is a state of appreciation and being thankful for what you have. Gratitude is about focusing on the good things in life instead of fixating on all the things you don’t like or wish you had.

Tips for using this strength:

  • Keep a journal, and each night, make a list of three things that you are thankful for in life.
  • Every day, thank someone for something  that you might otherwise take for granted.
  • Keep a record of all the times you use the words “thank you,” or send an someone a “thank you” e-greeting card.
  • Leave a note for your friend, family, or partner thanking them for something you appreciate about them.

5. Love

This strength of character involves a strong emotional connection to others. This relates to being able and willing to both give and receive love.

Tips for using this strength:

  • Give loved ones a big hug and a kiss
  • Tell spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/sibling/parent that you love them
  • Write a nick note where someone you love will find it sometime during the day. Do this in a new place, or for a new person, every day.

6. Forgiveness and Mercy

Forgiveness is crucial to our well-being. Letting go grudges and offering people a second chance can help clean up relationships and remove negativity and bitterness.

Tips for using this strength:

  • Think of someone that you found it hard to forgive. Try to see the situation from their perspective. Then consider, if you had been the one to do the offensive act, would you have expected to be forgiven?
  • When someone does something that you do not understand, try to put yourself in their shoes, and understand his or her intentions in the action.
  • Make contact with someone who has made you mad in the past. Let them know that you forgive them, or just be kind to them in your conversation.

These are a few examples of how to incorporate these strengths into your life more often.

Remember to visit to take the actual assessment, and to explore how you relate to the entire list of 24 strengths.

Whether you choose to incorporate the 6 strengths discussed in this post or to incorporate your personal top 5, think of other creative ways to increase the time and amount of energy you give to these strengths, and you will be more productive and happy because of it.

My Connection

This is where I provide my personal connection to the ideas in the post. I hope you will join the conversation by leaving a comment, and offering your personal connection to these ideas as well.

I completed the VIA strengths assessment a few years ago, and have been building on my strengths ever since. I can attest that it really does make a difference with my mood when I use these on a daily basis.

At the time I completed the assessment my top 5 strengths were: love of learning, curiosity, social intelligence, appreciation of excellence and beauty, and persistence.

Here is how I have and currently do incorporated these into my life.

Love of learning: I read voraciously, and am constantly doing research for my writing, coaching, counseling, and speaking. Spending time at book stores, listening to audio programs and podcasts, and attending seminars is simply rejuvenating for me.

P.S. – My Well-Being Coaching program specifically addresses this topic! Contact me at for more information.

Curiosity: I am a people watcher at heart. I am always curious about what other people do and how they ended up where they are in life. I love trying and exploring new creative things that I learn about, whether it be with food, music, or knowledge in general.

Social intelligence: Fortunately, I am in a fitting professional field when it comes to coaching and counseling. I get to meet new people and learn about what motivates and inspires them. Simply put, I enjoy helping people find direction, feel connected, and start recognizing their potential.

Appreciation for beauty and excellence: Art, music, and nature have always been something that I connect with at a deep level. I play the drums a few days a week, write music, and enjoy attending all types of live performances. I also really get excited about art and design, and though I don’t have the skill to actually create it at a pure level, I love being a part of creative projects where this is the case.

Perseverance: I am highly driven by goals and achievement. I get great fulfillment when I complete a project, task, or objective. Because of this I have learned that having goals to work toward is crucial for my well-being and fulfillment.


Peterson, C., Ruch, W., Beermaan, U., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2007). Strengths of character, orientations to happiness, and life satisfaction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2 (3), 149-156.

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  • Hiten Vyas

    Hi Joe,

    I loved this post and you explained 6 strengths for producing happiness really well.

    I personally love ‘curiosity’ and being in a constant state of learning. It certainly does help to keep me happy as well, because it means I’m not being hard on myself, if I’m doing an activity which I’m not familiar with. If I’m always learning, I give myself permission to make mistakes as well.

  • Shakeoffthegrind

     Hi Hiten,

    Thanks for leaving your thoughts and sharing this! Curiosity is one of my personal top strengths as well and it opens up many opportunities for growth and engagement in everyday life. It relates a lot to a love of learning which also keeps life interesting and meaningful!

  • rob

    Nice, Joe. I enjoyed these 6 bullets. I have found that curiosity is an incredible quality.   We can’t get from where we are
    to where we want to be in life without it.

    Curiosity enables me to think in new ways. It’s what has taken human beings from living in caves to walking on the moon. It’s a costly error to think one can achieve their dreams while
    suffering with the ache of a doubting mind. A doubting mind quells our curiosity and kills our
    ambitious nature. A disciplined
    mind, alive with healthy curiosity is a beautiful gift; it’s what we need in order to look at life
    with a consciousness of success.

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  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind


    Thanks so much for stopping by and adding to the post! I love how to point out the bigger picture with these strengths, particularly curiosity. Yes it is because of curious people who are willing to dream big and connect with something greater that the world can transform in miraculous ways. I think all of these strengths can offer transformation in a much larger way than personal well-being, if we continue cultivating them.

  • Yongho

    Great post – I used to think happiness was something that “happened” to me, rather than something within my control. It was bizarre when I discovered that there are specific activities we can proactively do to become more happy.

    #3 is my biggest “happiness driver” at the moment, but I definitely use all 6 in different levels throughout the months.

    I just tooked the VIA assessment from UPenn, it was interesting to see we both had persistence and love of learning! (My other 3 were creativity, forgiveness, and honesty)

  • Shakeoffthegrind

     Hi Yongho,

    Great to hear from you! I really appreciate you stopping by. These are all great ways to get more engaged and intention about the life we live. #3 has been a popular one from the feedback I’m getting. That’s awesome you took the assessment. Hopefully that gives you some insight to help you be more engaged in everyday life. Try to think of some creative ways to use those in your daily experiences. I’d be happy to give you any advice on doing so, just let me know!

  • The Vizier

     Hi Joe,

    Indeed being aware of our nature and interests can lead to enhanced well-being.  It allows us to engage in activities that come naturally to us and hence increase our life satisfaction in general.  I enjoyed reading the top 6 strengths you have shared for producing happiness.  Here are some of the thoughts that crossed my mind.  

    3.  Curiosity

    Each of us have different curiosities in life.  I feel it is important to be aware of what makes us curious and to constantly nourish and nurture this aspect of ourselves.  For example, I love to read about history.  Thus, reading about different kingdoms and eras in history allows me to learn about new characters and perspectives which makes me happy.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!

    Irving the Vizier

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind


    Thanks for leaving your thoughts and insight! I can relate to what you mention about learning about new and different places and experiences. In the world we live in today curiosity is even more valuable and relevant. There are so many different people and places to experience that we can have direct access to. It sounds like you may have a love for learning as well! Thanks again! 

  • Jaky Astik

    Joe, get a pinterest account. Your stuff would charm people there :)

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind


    Thanks for the suggestion and kind words. I actually got an account recently though don’t use it much. I need to get on board! ;)

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