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Which Character Strengths are Linked with Inner Peace? | June 2023: Volume 4, Issue 2

By Dr. Ryan Niemiec

A bimonthly briefing on the latest science and practice of character strengths.

How do you create calmness or serenity? How might you find more harmony in a busy life? Many people turn to a variety of strategies in the forms of medicines, activities, substances, yoga, and mindfulness. What about character strengths for inner peace? This is an untouched avenue with substantial potential. This, and other types of peace are the subject of numerous large-scale studies by the VIA Institute on Character. A new field that merges character strengths and peace psychology is emerging. In this issue, I delve into one of those studies here. As you review this briefing, consider this: What are your “inner peace strengths”?


Which Character Strengths are Linked with Inner Peace?

The Findings

In a study of more than 21,000 people, I, along with character strengths researchers Lobna Chérif and Valerie Wood from the Royal Military College of Canada, looked at the 24 character strengths and different kinds of inner peace. We looked at inner peace as serenity (inner haven, trust, acceptance) and harmony in life.

We found that hope was the most important character strength across the measures. The character strengths of zest and gratitude were also highly connected with both measures of inner peace. We thus named these three strengths, tentatively, as the primary inner peace strengths. We also found that spirituality and forgiveness had very highly significant connections with one measure and small but significant connections with the other measure. We thus named these two strengths, tentatively, as secondary inner peace strengths.

Three other strengths played a smaller but important, supportive role for inner peace. These were the strengths of perspective, prudence, and self-regulation. Finally, there were two character strengths with strong negative associations with inner peace. These were kindness and judgment/critical thinking.

Making sense of this research

In a study of more than 21,000 people, I, along with character strengths researchers Lobna Chérif and Valerie Wood from the Royal Military College of Canada, looked at the 24 character strengths and different kinds of inner peace. We looked at inner peace as serenity (inner haven, trust, acceptance) and harmony in life.

We found that hope was the most important character strength across the measures. The character strengths of zest and gratitude were also highly connected with both measures of inner peace. We thus named these three strengths, tentatively, as the primary inner peace strengths. We also found that spirituality and forgiveness had very highly significant connections with one measure and small but significant connections with the other measure. We thus named these two strengths, tentatively, as secondary inner peace strengths.

Three other strengths played a smaller but important, supportive role for inner peace. These were the strengths of perspective, prudence, and self-regulation. Finally, there were two character strengths with strong negative associations with inner peace. These were kindness and judgment/critical thinking.

Practical Application

It is too soon to draw evidence-based interventions to create inner peace. But, it is not too soon to reflect on the findings for your own life and for offering strategies for clients and students. Here are a few ideas to reflect on, journal about, discuss with others, and take action with:

  1. Think about a time when you experienced inner peace. Recall the details of the experience. What character strengths were part of that experience? What character strengths do you think caused your inner peace?
  2. Reflect on the five strengths that were most related to inner peace in this study. How might you directly tap into hope, gratitude, zest, spirituality, or forgiveness to facilitate just “a little more” inner peace for yourself this week?
  3. Consider your strengths of judgment/critical thinking. This is a wonderful character strength involving logic and detailed analysis. When might this get in the way of your inner peace?
  4. Consider the many ways in which you extend kindness to others. Reflect on when it might come at a cost to your experiencing greater inner peace. How might you continue to express this strength while also giving yourself space for inner peace?

This is the first study to really look closely at the character strengths ingredients of our inner peace – that which might give us greater serenity and harmony. These are exciting findings that may provide a foundation for future studies and for good practices for creating peace for ourselves, which then makes peace in our relationships and groups much more likely.

Empowering You to Bring Out the Best in Others Using Character Strengths

Character strengths are a scientifically-validated pathway to help individuals improve their lives, work and relationships. The free [VIA Survey](https://viacharacter.org/account/register), translated into over 40 languages, is the premier tool in the field of positive psychology that assesses an individual's character strengths. When you know your clients' or employees' strengths, you can guide them more effectively and authentically. Discover a host of resources for professionals.

References

Chérif, L., Niemiec, R. M., & Wood, V. (2022). Inner peace and character strengths. International Journal of Wellbeing, 12(3), 16-34. https://doi.org/10.5502/ijw.v12i3.2195