Positive character traits: 20 qualities of happy people

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Warren Susman, the esteemed author, and historian, once wrote about how the word “character” was one of the most important words in 19th century English vocabulary.

It was crucial to society at the time to promote the idea of having good character—it was the one thing that could stand the test of time and define who you were as an individual.

But this emphasis shifted over the decades, as society transformed from one that valued character and good virtue to one of material and entertainment.

Developing these characteristics that would make you a good person became outdated ideas; even the role models of today barely showcase the “character” that we once loved and respected.

At Hack Spirit, we often talk about the importance of taking responsibility for your life and living with integrity.

Fortunately, there’s no reason why you can’t emphasize your own character development, which is inextricably associated with your happiness.

Here are 20 traits that will lead you to improving your character and helping you find true happiness:

1) Self-Discipline

Your raw emotions and base desires don’t control what you do or say.

You have the strength and willpower to overcome your initial urges and do what’s right, using self-control to achieve long-term goals.

2) Reliability

You have a word that others can rely on. When you commit to something, your community knows that they can expect you to be there.

You’ve spent a lifetime proving that you will always be around when you are needed.

3) Lovingness

You aren’t one to hold grudges; instead, you prefer to spread love and positivity. This means more than just saying “I love you” and sending out Valentine’s cards.

You show your love through positive, proactive acts and expressions, and aim to make the world a better place.

4) Politeness

You know the meaning of courtesies and proper manners, even if it may seem old-fashioned in this day and age.

You don’t let what other people say about you get in the way of doing the right and polite things, and you always work to improve the way you behave.

5) Generosity

You aren’t one to hold back when others need you.

You prioritize the happiness and well-being of others, so much that you are always open to giving some of your time and energy to other people in their times of need.

6) Authenticity

You are the real you, all the time.

While others may sometimes pretend to be something they are not, just to climb up the social ladder, you will always be authentic to yourself and show people the one and only you.

7) Fairness

You know the importance of sticking to the law, even when it doesn’t suit you.

You believe that the best way to keep your integrity is to remain fair at all times, no matter what the consequences may bring.

8) Humility

While you are a confident and strong individual, you understand that there are moments when it is better to lower your own sense of self-importance.

You don’t believe that you are too good for anything or better than other people.

9) Respectfulness

Kindness, civility, and absolute honest. You respect everyone in your community, big or small.

It doesn’t matter who they are, you believe that all people deserve respect, regardless of their flaws or imperfections.

10) Honesty

Lies aren’t something that come easily to you, because honesty is one of your key attributes.

And being honest is more than just about not telling a lie; it’s about living a life of honesty. In every interaction you have, you are straightforward and frank.

(If you’re looking for specific actions you can take to stay in the moment and live a happier life, check out my best-selling eBook on how to use Buddhist teachings for a mindful and happy life here.)

11) Conscientiousness

You are always conscientious of every activity that you are a part of, because you believe that every task and job requires the same amount of respect and attention.

You are vigilant and upright, even when no one else is looking.

12) Optimism

This isn’t just about being blindly positive, because no one can be that way and still live an honest life.

Optimism is about being hopeful, looking forward to a future that you can improve with your actions of today.

13) Kindness

Kindness is second nature to you, and is the basis behind most of your other character traits.

You don’t even give it a second thought when you are asked to be considerate or helpful to another person.

Your motivation comes from the need to help others, not to benefit yourself.

14) Perseverance

Through thick and thin, you are ready to give it your all.

You have the determination to see even the toughest situations out to their end, no matter how uncomfortable they may make you.

15) Courage

While there might be some things that scare you, that doesn’t mean you will back out of a commitment or a responsibility simply due to that fear.

True courage is not about being immune to fears, because the truth is we all have our own fears. True courage is about continuing on in spite of them.

16) Forgiveness

You know how to let bygones be bygones. Grudges are a thing of the past, and old angers and negativity fade away over time.

You aren’t afraid to be the bigger person and forgive those who have wronged or hurt you.

17) Compassion

There is a voice inside of you that cries out in pain when you see others who are suffering.

You have an immense desire to save the world from hardship and sadness, and do whatever you can to help relieve others.

18) Responsibility

You take responsibility with a clear mind, and always follow through on your commitments.

You understand that there are people who rely on you, and you always make sure to proactively work on those you are responsible for.

(If you’re looking for a structured, easy-to-follow framework to help you find your purpose in life and achieve your goals, check our eBook on how to be your own life coach here).

19) Loyalty

Rain or shine, you’re always by the side of those you love. You are a loyal friend, companion, and partner, and you will never turn your back on those who have earned your trust.

20) Integrity

And finally, integrity. A big word with a simple definition. To have integrity means to have unbreakable moral principles.

It is by these rules that you live your life, making every decision with your core values in mind.

These are excellent examples of great character. If you focus on improving these traits in yourself, you’ll be happier, healthier and you’ll feel better.

Now that you know 20 traits to build great character, recent research has also found 10 personality traits that are important for a “healthy personality”.

So let’s discuss what personality traits the research study found for a happy and healthy personality.

Research says these 10 personality traits are important for a “healthy personality”

Wouldn’t it be great to know what personality traits lead to happy and stable mental health?

Well, we’re in luck.

New research has apparently found the answer.

Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers have claimed to have discovered the 10 personality traits key for mental being.

How did they find the answer?

Researchers asked 137 experts in psychology to describe their idea of a psychologically healthy person using the 30 personality facets in the NEO Psychological Inventory, Revised.

Across all groups, the same were identified.

So, in this article, we’re going to go through each trait identified by the research study and we’ll talk about ways we can improve it in ourselves.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to have ALL these personality traits to have a healthy life.

According to the Dr. Kaufman, ““the key determination [for psychological health] is the extent to which low scores on this profile block you from reaching your personal goals.”

1) Openness to Feelings

This involves how attentive you are to inner feelings.

Emotional avoidance has been linked to a range of mental health issues, like depression and anxiety.

I don’t blame anyone for ignoring negative feelings. I do it. Most of us do. After all, some feelings can be painful and difficult to deal with.

But when we reject our feelings, we reject a part of ourselves.

Now I’m not saying we should wallow in our negative emotions

Instead, it’s more fruitful to acknowledge and accept them.

This means letting your emotions be without negatively judging them or trying to change them.

It’s understanding that you don’t need to change your emotions. They won’t do damage to you.

In fact, research shows that learning to accept emotions leads to stable emotional resilience.

It also leads to a better understanding of yourself and why your emotions are responding in certain ways.

This doesn’t mean self-imposed suffering. It just means that you acknowledge what you’re feeling.

Once you’ve done that, you can move on and focus on your actions.

Buddhist philosophy is big on accepting and letting go of negative emotions, and they’ve developed several techniques to do so over the years.

To learn more about it, check out my eBook on How to Use Buddhist Philosophy for a Mindful, Happy and Peaceful Life. You can see it here.

2) Straightforwardness (and being “frank, sincere, and ingenuous”)

People often get the idea of straightforwardness and assertiveness wrong. It doesn’t mean you’re aggressive, pushy or mean. It means being honest, and standing up for yourself while respecting others.

There’s no point dancing around issues. You’ll probably feel more cluttered yourself.

So, how can you learn to be more straightforward and honest with yourself?

There’s actually a formula for constructing an assertiveness statement, according to Psychology Today. It has 3 parts:

1. What you want them to change:

When you don’t call on me during a meeting

2. How this behavior affects you:

I never get a chance to speak

3. How you feel as a result:

I feel marginalized

So, putting it all together: “When you don’t call on me during a meeting, I never get a chance to speak, and I feel marginalized.”

3) Competence

Feeling that you’re good at something engenders feelings of optimism and hope.

When you feel that you are a capable person, able to achieve things and do things, you naturally become more confident and resilient.

Think of JK Rowling typing away day after day. She worked alone and needed to know that
she was good at what she was doing.

By practicing over and over, her writing kept getting better and better. She kept on gaining confidence, and that confidence helped her push through.

Being good at something only comes with practice, and being good at something improves resilience through confidence.

Try this: Pick a skill that you have, something that’s important to you. Perhaps something
that’s linked to one of your goals. Set aside time every week to do it, no matter how busy you are.

4) Warmth (being affectionate and friendly)

Mother Teresa once said, “We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.”

Kindness helps our lives in more ways than one.

Research shows that when we do things for others, we do get repaid. Not just through reciprocation, but as a result of the psychological benefits acts of benevolence produce in the giver.

This is a fairly simple one. Be friendly and kind to others.

5) Positive emotions (experiencing “joy, happiness, love, and excitement”)

We all want to experience love and joy more often. Love is a powerful force that gives us purpose and bonds us in a way that nothing else really can.

Loving yourself can heighten this emotion. And focusing on your family and close friends can help as well. It allows your soul to live as a free spirit.

To experience joy more often, do things that are a catalyst for joy for you. It could be hiking, swimming, throwing a party etc.

But one effective way to release positive emotions and embrace loving yourself is to use breathwork.

You see, even if at your core you’re a happy person, life has a way of overriding those good feelings with stress, anxiety, and sadness.

And whilst it’s normal to experience these feelings from time to time, it’s also easy to let them get in the way of your core self.

When I needed to reconnect with my emotions, I was introduced to an unusual free breathwork video created by the shaman, Rudá Iandê, which focuses on dissolving stress and boosting inner peace.

My relationship was failing, I felt tense all the time. My self-esteem and confidence hit rock bottom. I’m sure you can relate – heartbreak does little to nourish the heart and soul.

I had nothing to lose, so I tried this free breathwork video, and the results were incredible.

But before we go any further, why am I telling you about this?

I’m a big believer in sharing – I want others to feel as empowered as I do. And, if it worked for me, it could help you too. 

Secondly, Rudá hasn’t just created a bog-standard breathing exercise – he’s cleverly combined his many years of breathwork practice and shamanism to create this incredible flow – and it’s free to take part in. 

Now, I don’t want to tell you too much because you need to experience this for yourself. 

All I will say is that by the end of it, I felt peaceful and optimistic for the first time in a long time.

And let’s face it, we can all do with a feel-good boost during relationship struggles.

So, if you feel a disconnect from those feel-good emotions, I’d recommend checking out Rudá’s free breathwork video. It’ll be the first step to loving yourself like you deserve.

Here’s a link to the free video again.

6) Low levels of angry hostility

We all get angry. And often, it can feel like an uncontrollable force that takes over us.

But holding onto anger can lead to adverse effects, both physically and emotionally.

So, how can you learn to let go of anger when it arises? What helped me was learning breathing techniques.

Simple breathing exercises can also help to reduce stress and increase relaxation.

Rapid, erratic breathing is a common result of stress. But slow, deep, regular breathing is a sign of relaxation.

If you learn to control your breathing to mimic relaxation, the effect will be relaxing.

Here’s how to do deep breathing:

1) Breathe in slowly an deeply, while focusing on your stomach going up and down.
2) Hold your breath for 4 seconds.
3) Exhale, thinking about how relaxing it is, for 6 seconds.
4) Repeat this sequence 5 to 10 times, focusing on breathing slowly and deeply.

For more breathing and mindfulness techniques to help you reduce stress and anger, check out Hack Spirit’s eBook on the Art of Mindfulness.

It’s filled with practical tips, information and easy-to-follow mindful techniques to live a more peaceful, productive life. Check it out here.

7) Low anxiety (not being “shy, fearful, nervous, tensed, and restless”)

Anxiety is certainly a battle that many people face.

Everyone worries from time to time. But for some people, “worry is a way of life,”

One thing that helped me was learning the 5 step model of acceptance and commitment therapy.

1) Label worry thoughts.
2) Let go of control.
3) Accept and observe thoughts and feelings.
4) Be mindful of the present moment.
5) Proceed in the right direction.

Read more about it here.

Another effective technique to reduce stress and anxiety is meditation.

To learn meditation properly, check out this free course from meditation expert Emily Fletcher.

Emily Fletcher is one of the world’s leading experts in meditation. She’s been invited to teach at Google, Harvard Business School, Summit Series, Viacom, A-Fest & The Omega Center.

After years of studying ancient practices in India and teaching thousands of high performers, Emily created Ziva Meditation, a mental technique that combines the stress-relieving benefits of meditation with the mental clarity of mindfulness.

She takes the woo-woo out of meditation and makes it attractive and easy to implement. Check it out here.

8) Low depression

Depression can drain you, mentally and physically. Overcoming depression isn’t quick or easy but it’s definitely possible.

Here’s a great list of things to do from Help Guide to improve your mood:

1) Reach out to others and stay connected.
2) Do things that make you feel good.
3) Get moving and exercise
4) Eat a healthy diet
5) Get a daily dose of sunlight
6) Challenge your negative thinking

9) Low vulnerability to stress

When you’re stressed, the last thing that you’d think would work would be exercise. After all, exercise is a form of physical stress.

However, research suggests that physical stress can relieve mental stress.

Harvard Health says that aerobic exercise is key for your head, just as it is for your heart:

“Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. It’s a common experience among endurance athletes and has been verified in clinical trials that have successfully used exercise to treat anxiety disorders and clinical depression. If athletes and patients can derive psychological benefits from exercise, so can you.”

According to Harvard Health, exercise works because it reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.

It also stimulates the production of endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood elevators.

(To learn how to develop mental toughness, check out our eBook on the Art of Resilience here)

10) Low impulsivity (being able to control cravings and urges)

The great news about this is that research has found that the brain can be trained to be less impulsive.

An effective way is to determine how you want to prioritize your time. Then, before acting impulsively, make sure your action reflects the values you’ve written down for yourself.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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