Wouldn’t it be great to know what personality traits lead to happy and stable mental health?
Well, we’re in luck.
New research might have an answer.
Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers have suggested ten good character traits key for mental being.
In the study, researchers asked 137 psychology experts to describe their idea of a psychologically healthy person using the 30 personality facets in the NEO Psychological Inventory, Revised.
With the data, they identified the 10 most consistent traits across all groups.
So in this article, we’re going to go through each positive character trait determined 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 every single character trait to be a “psychologically healthy person”.
According to 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
Openness to feelings 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 handle.
But when we reject our feelings, we deny 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. We all have a darker side.
Accepting your feelings 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.
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 voluntary 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 these techniques and strategies, check out Hack Spirit’s eBook The No-Nonsense Guide to Using Buddhism and Eastern Philosophy for a Better Life.
2) Straightforwardness (and being “frank, and sincere”)
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 a formula for constructing an assertiveness statement, according to Psychology Today. It has three 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.”
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.
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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 relatively 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 pleasure for you. It could be hiking, swimming, throwing a party, etc.
6) Low levels of angry hostility
We all get mad. 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 and 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.
7) Low anxiety (not being “shy, fearful, nervous, tensed, and restless”)
Anxiety is indeed 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.
Another useful technique to reduce stress and anxiety is mindfulness and meditation.
APA (American Psychological Association) defines mindfulness “as a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment”.
Studies have suggested that mindfulness and meditation can help reduce rumination, reduce stress, boost working memory, improve focus, improve emotional reactivity, improve cognitive flexibility and enhance relationship satisfaction.
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I took her meditation course and I found that it communicated what mindfulness is and how you can get started really well.
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.
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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 will 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 vital 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.
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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