To be a more virtuous person, surround yourself with emblems of higher moral standards. As Arthur Brooks reports at the New York Times, just carrying around a briefcase emblazoned with the crest of a Mormon university (where Brooks had given a talk) made him feel subtly obligated to be more generous—he even watched his coffee intake. Psychologists call this phenomenon “moral elevation”.
In experiments, individuals were asked to watch three different video clips: a comedy, a documentary, and an uplifting piece where artists expressed gratitude to their patrons. Those who watched the clip filled with gracious feeling reported more optimism and hope for the future of humanity. They were also more willing than the other viewers to help researchers with voluntary tasks associated with the experiment.
As philosopher Peter Singer said in his Big Think interview, behaving morally will prove better for you in the long run. Ethical behavior, he says, is more than behaving according to religious doctrine: it is putting enlightened self-interest into practice.