How To Get Happy

Living an ethical life provides a required foundation for practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness means that we are willing to experience with self-awareness our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in each moment. If we live our lives with a minimal use of ethics and moral principles, our lives tend to be filled with turmoil.


Ethics are values based on moral principles such as kindness, love, compassion, justice, and cooperation. Ethical principles are worthy of practicing because they are guided by our intention to do a minimum amount of harm to ourselves and others. We are human and make mistakes.

Our own ethics help us take responsibility, admit our mistakes, and learn to change our behavior. Ethics are values that are rooted in the belief that we are motivated to help each other, to work together to ensure our survival, and to thrive as a species.

Ethics are similar to the six virtues and twenty-four character strengths as classified by Positive Psychology (Peterson and Seligman, 2004). The authors studied cultures, religions, and philosophical traditions world-wide. They identified six main classes of virtues: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.


Character strengths are specific psychological principles that define virtues. Practicing and living a character strength is how we practice a virtue. Character strengths are demonstrated as ethical behaviors that allow us to cultivate virtues.

The virtue of wisdom contains character strengths of creativity, curiosity, open mindedness, love of learning, and perspective. When we practice open mindedness, we are willing to explore new ideas and listen to peoples different points of view. Character strengths can be developed.


Mindfulness is not considered a character strength because it is considered a capacity that we have within ourselves—the ability to be aware of the present moment. Living an ethical way of life brings out the best in us and supports us and others. We can develop our mindfulness more deeply when we live an ethical way of life.

John Fulan is a marriage and family therapist in private practice and a clinical supervisor in San Diego. He is a mindfulness practitioner and helps clients connect with a sense of well-being.