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Natural Awakenings Austin

Be as Happy as a Pup

by Lisa Sullivan

One beautiful lesson dogs teach us is to be present in the now. Dogs are frequently happy because they aren’t too concerned about many things in life. That’s not so easy for humans. We have things to do, bills to pay, families to take care of and more, but there are research-proven ways to tap into our happiness. One of those is to focus on our character strengths.

Character strengths are the positive parts of our personality that impact how we think, feel and behave, and are the keys to being our best selves. They develop from our experiences, give us energy and sustain us. They are different from our other strengths, such as unique skills, talents, interests and resources because character strengths reflect our real selves—who we are at our core.

The leader in the research of character strengths is the VIA Institute on Character, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the science of character strengths to the world. Through the research of Dr. Neal Mayerson and Dr. Martin Seligman, and research of more than 5 million people from over 190 countries, they discovered there are 24 character strengths, each coming under the heading of six broad virtues:

Virtue of Wisdom (strength of head): creativity, curiosity; judgment, love of learning and perspective

Virtue of Courage (strength of heart): bravery, perseverance, honesty and zest

Virtue of Humanity (strength of others): love, kindness and social intelligence

Virtue of Citizenship (strength of community): teamwork, leadership and fairness

Virtue of Temperance (strength of self): forgiveness, humility, prudence and self-regulation

Virtue of Transcendence (strength of spirit): appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor and spirituality

We all possess the 24 strengths, but in varying degrees, giving each of us a unique character profile. Research done at the VIA Institute on Character shows focusing on our top five signature strengths is beneficial, making us happier and more successful.

One of the best tools to find our top signature strengths is the 10-minute VIA Survey of Character Strengths ( and is at the heart of the research on character strengths. It was created by a team of social scientists that scoured the world for ways to identify, measure and develop what is “good” in people. The VIA Survey is regarded as a central tool of positive psychology and has been used in hundreds of research studies, resulting in better workplaces, schools, teams and lives the world over.

By focusing on our signature strengths, we have a sense of flourishing and purpose. We feel happier, more engaged and energized. Being more dog-like may bring more happiness. Be playful. Walk in the park. Dance and scamper. Play fetch. Dig in the mud. Roll in the grass. Take a good nap every day. True happiness is acquired by living a full, fulfilling and real life, one that serves us and others well. Tapping into and focusing on our character strengths is a wonderful way to do that.

Lisa Sullivan is the owner of The Happiness Element, in Dripping Springs, a company that provides science-based positivity workshops for companies and happiness retreats for women. For more information, email [email protected] or visit and

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