When I am at play with my small son, I realize how precious time is and so I attempt to be as present and mindful as possible in each activity. This mindfulness spurs my strength of curiosity as I await each word and reaction from him. Curiosity brings me to want to express other strengths such as humor to make him laugh. Not wanting to overdo my goofiness over and over, my mindfulness increases to tune in closely to him and the other possible character strengths that might benefit him, such as love as I provide him with positive feedback, teamwork as we work together on building blocks, or zest as we jump into an upbeat activity together.
Hence, round and round mindfulness and character strengths go – each influencing the other in a positive way. This is a virtuous circle that I believe can benefit everyone.
Why Combine Mindfulness & Character Strengths?
In the past, mindfulness and strengths have been treated as separate areas of practice and research. However, I believe these robust areas of well-being are inseparable. Here are 12 ways that mindfulness can help your strengths practice and strengths of character can help your mindfulness practice.
Character strengths provide a common language of positive states and traits that define your goodness, many of which are organic outcomes of mindfulness.
Character strengths provide a focus to help you deal with vexing obstacles and barriers, such as mind wandering, that naturally emerge during mindfulness practices.
Mindfulness makes you more aware of the positive potential within you and offers a pathway to explore and develop your character strengths.
Mindfulness and character strengths create a positive synergy of mutual benefit that can foster a virtuous circle of positive impact. Mindful awareness boosts strengths use which, in turn, enlivens mindfulness. This synergy might actually be what underlies successful positive interventions.
Mindfulness promotes self-awareness and change activation by bringing your character strengths more clearly into view. It serves as a path to see yourself as you really are.
Mindfulness and character strength practices foster your ability to respond appropriately and successfully in different situations; that is, the integration may promote psychological flexibility, helping you find balance and practical wisdom in situations, and engender a growth mindset.
Mindfulness offers an anchor to the practice of character strengths and provides direction on how to apply your strengths.
Mindfulness motivates you to use your signature strengths more, which is particularly relevant since some research has found that only 1/3 of people have a meaningful awareness of their strengths. And for those that are aware, there is likely the issue of strengths blindness and taking your strengths for granted by downplaying them as “ordinary.” Mindfulness may be the ideal approach for remedying this “taking-strengths-for-granted” effect.
Mindfulness provides a pathway for balanced character strength expression and a way to practice bringing character strengths to fruition. Mindfulness can serve as a way for you to improve your management of strengths overuse and underuse.
Mindfulness and character strengths help you get off the “hedonic treadmill” of quickly adapting to good or bad experiences by helping you appreciate the small pleasures in life.
Mindfulness and character strengths provide a counterbalance to the pervasive tendency to focus on and become impacted by what’s wrong or bad.
Mindfulness gives a direct and indirect boost to many strengths at once. One strength cannot be expressed without using other strengths. For example, how can you practice cultivating gratitude without employing the strengths of perspective (e.g., reflecting back on your day with a wider lens when counting your blessings) or bravery (e.g., using courage to deliver a gratitude letter to someone)? Each strength has elements of the others within it, and moreover, each strength requires the use of other strengths to deploy it. Thus, mindfulness focused on boosting one strength is automatically assisting other strengths to some degree.
Print or download this list as a quick reference guide for combining mindfulness and character strengths.