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Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP) for Enhancing Well-Being, Managing Problems, and Boosting Positive Relationships


Abstract and Figures

Character strengths are often referred to as the backbone of positive psychology. Mindfulness has, at its essence, character strengths (e.g., self-regulation and curiosity) and numerous correlates and outcomes relating to character strengths (e.g., kindness, perspective, creativity) are associated with mindfulness practices. Mindfulness-based strengths practice (MBSP), a manualized approach that integrates these practice areas, emphasizes how each practice can mutually enhance the other. Character strengths can be woven into mindfulness practices in order to combat meditation barriers (e.g., mind wandering; scheduling problems; body discomfort) that participants report when attempting to maintain a mindfulness practice. In turn, mindfulness practice helps individuals to be more tuned in to social situations and to inner phenomena to assist in optimal character strengths expression. Popular character strengths practices such as strengths-spotting, developing signature strengths, and targeting specific strengths are supported by the open and accepting nature of mindfulness approaches. At the same time, individuals can become more engaged and adept at mindful living practices such as mindfulness in relationships, mindful listening, mindful eating, and mindful walking by deploying their strengths. This chapter will review the MBSP program as well as the links between mindfulness, character strengths use, and positive outcomes. While the science of MBSP is young, preliminary research and case examples from MBSP programs with participants across multiple countries show promise and are presented.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Chapter for the edited book:
Mindfulness in Positive Psychology: The Science of Meditation and Well-being
Ryan M. Niemiec, Psy.D., Education Director, VIA Institute on Character.
Contact info:
Judith Lissing, BSc (hons), MPH, Managing Director, Mind Coaching Australia
Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP) for Enhancing Well-Being, Managing Problems,
and Boosting Positive Relationships
Character strengths are often referred to as the backbone of positive psychology. Mindfulness
has, at its essence, character strengths (e.g., self-regulation and curiosity) and numerous
correlates and outcomes relating to character strengths (e.g., kindness, perspective, creativity) are
associated with mindfulness practices. Mindfulness-based strengths practice (MBSP), a
manualized approach that integrates these practice areas, emphasizes how each practice can
mutually enhance the other. Character strengths can be woven into mindfulness practices in order
to combat meditation barriers (e.g., mind wandering; scheduling problems; body discomfort) that
participants report when attempting to maintain a mindfulness practice. In turn, mindfulness
practice helps individuals to be more tuned in to social situations and to inner phenomena to
assist in optimal character strengths expression.
Popular character strengths practices such as strengths-spotting, developing signature strengths,
and targeting specific strengths are supported by the open and accepting nature of mindfulness
approaches. At the same time, individuals can become more engaged and adept at mindful living
practices such as mindfulness in relationships, mindful listening, mindful eating, and mindful
walking by deploying their strengths. This chapter will review the MBSP program as well as the
links between mindfulness, character strengths use, and positive outcomes. While the science of
MBSP is young, preliminary research and case examples from MBSP programs with participants
across multiple countries show promise and are presented.
“We can’t understand what is happening to ‘something’ if we aren’t looking. But nothing is
going to happen to that ‘something’ if we don’t look deeply. That’s why so many things with
incredible potential go unnoticed because nobody bothers to look.”
-Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director of 21 Grams (2003),
Babel (2006), Biutiful (2010), and Birdman (2014)
The Science of Mindfulness and Character
Positive psychology has two natural bedfellows that, despite some overlapping routes and similar
benefits when practiced, have grown up separately over the centuries. These are mindfulness
meditation and strengths of character. Each has a number of misconceptions associated with it so
we begin by clarifying terms and offering some brief research findings before delving into their
There are many ways to define mindfulness. Each author, researcher, practitioner, and thought
leader has their own take on it. The lack of a common, consensual definition poses problems for
researchers and practitioners in terms of understanding what is being discussed, studied, and
practiced. It is for this reason that a large group of mindfulness scientists gathered at the turn of
the century to derive a consensual, operational definition. What emerged was a two-part
definition for mindfulness (Bishop et al., 2004): Mindfulness involves the self-regulation of
attention with an approach of curiosity, openness, and acceptance.
Ultimately, mindfulness is not about getting relaxed or achieving a particular state, rather
mindfulness refers to being present to what is happening in the unfolding moment to moment
experience, without pre-conceptions or judgments. Mindfulness meditation practices and
mindfulness-based programs have been associated with many positive outcomes. Meta-analyses
have found clear evidence for the positive effects of meditation on well-being (Sedlmeier et al.,
2012) and that meditation is beneficial for both clinical and non-clinical populations (Grossman
et al., 2004).
Character is another term that has traditionally lacked a consensual definition. Character has
typically been viewed over the decades in a narrow and myopic way conceived of as a solitary
construct such as honesty or integrity or characterized by a random selection of four or five
qualities such as responsibility, respect, loyalty, and kindness. Studies of such groupings of
character frequently found in character education programs have typically lacked scientific rigor
(Berkowtiz & Bier, 2007). A new science of character emerged at the turn of the century. In
2004, a common language emerged for understanding these positive aspects of our personality.
This was catalyzed by a 3-year project involving 55 scientists, significant cross-cultural work,
and extensive research finding 24 character strengths to be universal in human beings (Biswas-
Diener, 2006; Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2006; Peterson & Seligman, 2004). This
groundbreaking system of character strengths and virtues is known as the VIA Classification
(Peterson & Seligman, 2004), which can be seen in detail in Table 1. The accompanying
scientific measurement tool to assess these 24 strengths is widely known as the VIA Survey.
(The word “VIA” in these instances was formerly an acronym for “values in action.”) The VIA
Survey, a free, online tool (accessed at has been taken by over three
million people reaching every country around the globe. There are over 200 peer-reviewed
publications on character strengths, the majority emerging in the last several years.
[Insert Table 1 here]
Character strengths are core, positive, trait-like capacities for thinking, feeling, and behaving in
ways that help us achieve our best potential and bring out the best in others. These character
strengths have been found to correlate with many of the valued outcomes that humans pursue.
Reviews and examples have been published elsewhere (Niemiec, 2013; Peterson, 2006; Peterson
& Seligman, 2004), and include the link between creativity and posttraumatic growth (Forgeard,
2013), the connection between curiosity and intimacy (Kashdan et al., 2011), the alignment of
humility with generosity (Exline & Hill, 2012), and the connection between the strength of
appreciation of beauty and well-being and self-transcendence (Martinez-Marti et al., 2014), to
name a recent few.
There is good reason to explore and deepen the synergy of these exciting positive psychology
domains. Mindfulness has been found to provide greater exposure to our internal environment
(Brown, Ryan, & Creswell, 2007), to help overcome our blind spots in self-knowledge (Carlson,
2013), and to align our actual self (who we think we are) and our ideal self (who we would like
to be; Ivtzan, Gardner, & Smailova, 2011). In practical terms, mindfulness helps people to look
within, sift through the judgments, comparisons, distortions, etc., and clearly see who we really
are (i.e., our authentic self; our core strengths).
Positive psychology and its countless researchers and practitioners strives to not only bring a
more careful examination of what is best in people (e.g., positive traits, positive emotions,
resilience) but also to use what is best to confront, manage, and/or transcend what is disordered,
afflictive, or discomforting (e.g., human suffering, disease, conflict, problems). Mindfulness and
character strengths each address these two points and it is suspected that the synergy between the
two provides an additive benefit for helping humans to not only champion what is best in them
but also to face and manage suffering.
Mindfulness and Character Strengths Integration: Past and Present
Until recently, minimal attention had been given to synergies of the universal character strengths
of the VIA Classification (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) and mindfulness-based practices.
Previous synergies had been piecemeal (e.g., focusing on one strength), indirect, or non-
inclusive. We outline previous and current approaches.
Indirect focus: The most popular mindfulness-based programs to date, Mindfulness-Based Stress
Reduction (MBSR; Kabat-Zinn, 1990) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT;
Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2013), do not directly target character strengths. That said, one is
not hard-pressed to discover character strengths being addressed throughout these programs. For
example, MBSR places emphasis on cultivating attitudes such as patience, openness, and letting
go; the character strengths of self-regulation, curiosity, judgment/open-mindedness, and
forgiveness are closely linked with these MBSR attitudes. The newest edition to the MBCT
manual (Segal et al., 2013) places an explicitly stronger emphasis on targeting
love/kindness/compassion. In addition, projected benefits and focus areas in MBCT are as
follows (our observation of the matched character strengths are in parentheses):
Observe negative thoughts with curiosity and kindness (curiosity, kindness,
judgment/critical thinking, self-regulation).
To accept themselves and stop wishing things were different (forgiveness, perspective).
To let go of old habits and choose a different way of being (forgiveness, bravery,
To be present in the moment and notice small beauties and pleasures in the world
(curiosity, appreciation of beauty & excellence).
Single strength integration: To be sure, many scientists and practitioners have studied, aligned,
and taught about the connection between meditation and mindfulness and particular character
strengths. Kindness and the recent surge of loving-kindness meditation and compassion practices
is one of the more prominent examples. Indeed, entire programs have been created around
mindfulness practices and this strength (e.g., Germer, 2009; Gilbert, 2010). Other examples that
have merged mindfulness/meditation with a specific strength include creativity (Langer, 2006),
spirituality (Ivtzan, 2014), hope (Hanson, 2013), forgiveness (Kornfield, 2008), and gratitude
(Brach, 2003). Related to this type of integration, researchers have frequently found correlations
between individual character strengths and mindfulness practices. For example, nonreactive and
nonjudging elements of mindfulness predicted perseverance (Evans, Baer, & Segerstrom, 2009),
authenticity/honesty correlates positively with mindfulness (Lakey et al., 2008), and vitality/zest
is not infrequently found to be an outcome of mindfulness (Reibel et al., 2001).
Buddhist philosophy and religious approaches: Buddhism, specifically Tibetan Buddhism, has a
rich history of meditation teachings, approaches, and metta (loving-kindness) practices.
Substantial emphasis is placed on meditation avenues aligned with compassion and wisdom, i.e.,
the character strengths of kindness and perspective (e.g., Chodron, 1994; Dalai Lama, 2006).
Meditative practices in Christianity date back at least to the early desert fathers centuries ago
(Carrigan, 2001) to centering prayer advocates (Keating, 2006) to contemporary theologians
(Rehg, 2002) and who have linked mindfulness with Christian spirituality, where it is easy to see
additional links with open-mindedness/judgment, love, perseverance, and humility.
Total strength integration: Prior to the publication of Mindfulness and Character Strengths and
the launching of Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP), there were three publications
that discussed an integration of mindfulness and the universal VIA Classification of character
strengths (see Baer & Lykins, 2011; Niemiec, 2013; Niemiec, Rashid, & Spinella, 2012). MBSP,
like other mindfulness-based programs, provides a “scaffolding” or “launching pad” to invite
cultivation (Kabat-Zinn, 2003) of core positive qualities and attention in participants. MBSP
enhances the inclusiveness and depth of previous approaches to virtue, strength, and character by
encompassing the following:
The plurality of our character (e.g., Peterson, 2006): Each individual has a unique
constellation of character strengths that are uniquely expressed in different combinations,
to different degrees, dependent on the context. Mindfulness practices support the
complexity and idiosyncratic nature of these individual differences and contextual issues.
Exploring over prescribing: A descriptive and exploratory approach to character strengths
discovery and application is prioritized over a prescriptive approach that focuses on a
handful of strengths that all people must develop (see Linkins et al., 2014, for a full
explanation of this difference).
Targeting strengths: Indeed, single strength integration approaches have been fruitful in
boosting up specific strengths, thus this was viewed as an important approach to integrate
into MBSP. A mindful targeting of specific strengths, chosen by participants themselves,
creates the opportunity for the enhancement of any of the 24 character strengths.
Participants sometimes attempt to boost a character strength because it is low in their
profile and they wish to build it up; they may be confused by it, disagree with its
placement in the rank-order, or simply wish to expand and deepen their understanding
and application of the given strength.
The new science of character: Since the publication of the VIA Classification, peer-
reviewed science on character has ballooned to over 200 publications in a short period of
time. These contemporary strengths areas are therefore addressed in MBSP, for example,
applying mindfulness to signature strengths, overuse and underuse of strengths, the
golden mean of strengths, strengths appreciation, strengths constellations, using strengths
with problems, and setting goals with strengths.
The Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP) Program
MBSP is the first of its kind in many respects. It represents the first manualized program to help
individuals understand and build their character strengths and is the first program to integrate
these two popular areas of positive psychology. It is one of the first mindfulness programs to
explicitly target something positive those characteristics which are strongest in human beings.
MBSP integrates the latest science and best practices involving mindfulness-based approaches
and character strengths knowledge. The 8-week, manualized MBSP program underwent
numerous iterations based on expert feedback, scientific findings, and early cross-cultural, pilot
research of eight groups involving advanced practitioners applying the MBSP program in six
countries. These culminated to the version of MBSP outlined in Niemiec (2014). Sessions 1 and
2 offer primers on mindfulness and character strengths, respectively, while the remaining six
sessions explore the integration and application of mindfulness and strengths. Table 2 provides
the core themes covered in each of the eight sessions.
[Insert Table 2]
The underlying, basic assumptions of MBSP reflect many of the core themes that are practiced.
These include that individuals can improve upon their mindful awareness and character
strengths; that these lead to valued outcomes such as developing or enhancing mindfulness in
relationships; that mindfulness in particular can enhance character strengths awareness,
deployment, and balanced use; and that character strengths can support individuals’ practice of
meditation and mindful living and assist in maintenance of mindfulness in the long-run.
To help participants understand and experience these tenets, there is an optimal structure within
each MBSP session that incorporates meditation experiences, mindfulness/strengths integration
exercises, group and dyadic discussion, and lecture input. Table 3 provides the breakdown of a
typical MBSP session.
[Insert Table 3]
As viewed in Table 3, there are a number of activities participants engage in each week. In an
attempt to provide the reader with a sense of some of the priority focus areas each week, Table 4
offers an example of the centerpiece activity (main exercise) for each of the MBSP sessions. The
table offers rationale for each activity.
[Insert Table 4]
There are two overarching ways in which mindfulness and character strengths can be integrated.
One approach is to focus on strengthening one’s mindfulness practice, mindful living, and
consistency and maintenance of meditation. This can be achieved by deliberately bringing in
one’s naturally-occurring character strengths, referred to as “strong mindfulness.” The other
approach is to bring mindful awareness to the understanding, exploration, spotting, appreciating,
balancing, and deployment of one’s character strengths. The bringing of mindfulness to one’s
character strengths is referred to as “mindful strengths use.”
There are many activities that participants engage in within group experiences and in home
practice that involve integrating these practices. To review all of them is beyond the scope of this
chapter. Therefore, a sampling of activities is covered in Table 5, along with their research base
and/or source.
[Insert Table 5]
At its best, the practice of mindfulness is strengths and the practice of strengths is mindfulness.
They cannot be separated. To practice mindful walking or mindful eating is to exercise self-
regulation as well as many other strengths. To express a curious and kindly openness to the
unfolding present moment experience is to practice mindfulness. When we deploy character
strengths in a mindful way we are strengthening our mindfulness, and when we strengthen our
mindfulness we are nurturing the conditions for virtuous behavior and balanced character
strengths use (Niemiec, 2014).
As this chapter’s opening quote suggests, so much potential in human beings goes unnoticed
because people either don’t know to look, don’t know how to look, or don’t look deeply.
Mindfulness and character strengths provide a mechanism for looking and a common language
for what to look for. When merged synergistically, the result is deep looking both inwardly and
outwardly and the potential for constructive, authentic, and altruistic action unfolds.
MBSP Pilot Research and Reports from the Field
Pilot research
Niemiec (2014) conducted some initial studies of MBSP to determine the efficacy of the
intervention program, to attain cross-cultural feedback, and to assist in making improvements to
the program. One small non-randomized, controlled study found substantial improvements for
the experimental group and when compared with controls. Improvements for flourishing,
engagement, and signature strengths use were the strongest effects. In addition to the United
States, the program was piloted in 5 countries by practitioners who met strict criteria in terms of
mindfulness knowledge, personal practice, and application and character strengths knowledge
and practice. Feedback from these practitioners and their MBSP group participants was
unanimously positive and assisted in improving the program. Feedback forms were distributed
among all groups with reported improvements in overall well-being, sense of identity, meaning
in life, sense of purpose, engagement with life tasks, stress management, quality of relationships,
sense of accomplishment, and management of problems. This trend toward a host of positive
outcomes has continued with the implementation of online MBSP programs offered by the first
author and by additional MBSP leaders across several countries (including the second author).
Core areas participants report they are able to do as a result of the MBSP program include the
Greater awareness of signature strengths (an element of “mindful strengths use”) and
using strengths more often.
Deepening of a previously existing mindfulness practice (the element of “strong
o For experienced meditators, this benefit appears to be related to another reported
outcome the overcoming of obstacles in the practice of mindfulness. For new
meditators, this outcome is particularly important because in many instances
mindfulness barriers are what prevent new meditators from maintaining their
Using both mindfulness and character strengths to deal with problems and difficulties.
Both spotting and appreciating strengths more frequently in others.
When piloted in the workplace, MBSP helped staff develop a common language with one
another, and was useful in resolving tension and disputes.
Another study (Briscoe, 2014) involved a non-randomized controlled model with participants in
the experimental condition (N=19) completing the MBSP program and a waitlist control
condition (N=20) that did not receive an intervention. The intervention group was delivered
online, which is becoming a popular, successful trend for delivering mindfulness programs as
many studies are revealing positive effects with online delivery (e.g., Aikens et al., 2014; Boggs
et al., 2014; Cavanagh et al., 2013; Gluck & Maercker, 2011; Krusche et al., 2012; Morledge et
al., 2013). This study, with groups equivocal in age and gender, used a number of measures
including the Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985),
Flourishing Scale (Diener, Lucas, Schimmack, & Helliwell, 2009), engagement questions (a
subscale of the Positive Psychotherapy Inventory [Rashid, 2008]), and questions on signature
strengths use and its link with flourishing, work, relationships, and community (Niemiec, 2014).
Questions from the latter include: “My greatest fulfillments in life occur when I express those
parts of myself that are core to who I am” and “My work is an expression of who I am at my
core, not just something I do well,” “My personal relationships give me the opportunity to
express the best parts of myself,” and “My activities in my community are vehicles by which I
express my best self.” Even though the experimental group had initially higher baseline levels of
all measures compared to the control group, all well-being variables (life satisfaction,
flourishing, engagement, and signature strengths use) in the experimental group showed
significant increases. The control group demonstrated a significant increase only in life
satisfaction. This study offers support for the theoretical and conceptual foundations of MBSP
and the initial MBSP pilot study.
These studies are also consistent with preliminary findings from other researchers who found
that more time spent using strengths correlates significantly with mindfulness (Jarden et al.,
2012), and early results from a Dutch study (Alberts, 2014) of MBSP elements using a
correlational and experimental design that found positive correlations between strengths use and
life satisfaction, strengths use and authenticity, strengths use and mindfulness, and strengths use
and acceptance.
Positive relationships: A standout finding in MBSP groups
One meta-analysis of meditation discovered that the strongest meditation effects were found for
emotionality and relationship issues (Sedlmeier et al., 2012). Positive relationships are critical to
well-being and are one of the most important pathways to greater happiness (Diener & Seligman,
2002a; 2002b). There are countless factors that may contribute to the creation, rekindling,
bolstering, and/or maintenance of positive, healthy relationships; it goes beyond the scope of this
chapter to explore the various dynamics and activities therein. Nevertheless, it is interesting to
note that one of the more striking, overarching findings we have observed in leading MBSP is
the benefits participants experience in the domain of positive relationships. Following MBSP,
participants are asked a question anonymously if MBSP had a direct positive effect on one of
their relationships and if so, to describe the impact. Nearly every participant who has completed
MBSP to date is able to draw a direct connection between MBSP and positive changes in one of
their relationships. There are a number of activities in MBSP that may account for this salient
impact on participants’ relationships, such as the strengths interview, the Character Strengths
360, weekly strengths-spotting and strengths-appreciating practice, weekly mindful listening and
mindful speaking practice, and character strengths meditations that are “other-focused,” to name
a few examples.
A sampling of cross-cultural examples across several MBSP group experiences reveals
participants experiencing both incremental changes that are meaningful over time as well as
transformative changes. Here are several examples relating to the domain of positive
I decided to renew contact with my estranged son of 15 years. I deliberately used mindful
listening and speaking and strengths-based dialogue in the conversations.
A couple who had been married for 35 years reported the following: MBSP has enhanced
our communication, pulled us out of automaton responding to one another, and helped us
renew and appreciate the joys and strengths of our marriage.
I appreciate other people’s strengths more and tell them that. I have written a forgiveness
letter to my brother with whom I have a difficult relationship and I asked him to forgive
me for always wanting to try and rescue him.
During the program, I started making mindful visits to my 75-year-old dad who lives in a
nursing home. His condition is difficult and very sad. Character strengths reflections and
mindful walking to his residence cultivated joy and peace within me so I was able to
approach him fresh and with mindfulness. The first days he looked at me in the same
way, then over time, he became more affectionate with me. He took my hand and kissed
it for the first time. My mindfulness visits had touched his soul.
I am friendlier with myself. And therefore am now expressing more love toward my wife
and daughters.
I have slowed down my thought processes, learned to recognize my strengths and
strengths in others. I am a calmer, happier, more joyous person with my friends, family,
and colleagues. I am not afraid to face interpersonal challenges or life’s obstacles. In fact,
I welcome them!
A new channel of communication has opened with my husband. The Character Strengths
360 deepened our connection as well as my relationships with friends and family. I feel
more appreciated by my kids and friends because of the feedback they gave me and in
turn I am easily reciprocating.
A worker at a nonprofit reported: During these weeks I’ve had the opportunity to practice
mindfulness and strengths-spotting in my co-workers. The results have been very positive
because communication flows easily now. The huge problems of the past have now
become manageable situations. The tools we have now as a team help us to not be
defensive, and I’m aware that we are now showing results at every level. Day by day,
our actions are slowly improving our workplace.
One MBSP practitioner, working with young, impoverished teen mothers, gathered
feedback at the end of the program from each participant on three areas new
discoveries about myself, “my use of strengths, and “my use of mindfulness. Each
teen clearly articulated benefits in all three domains, without exception. One teen’s
example follows:
o “I overuse my bravery. I need to use the golden mean of character strengths in
order to not harm myself” (new discovery);
o “I can use my bravery with love and these two strengths together can help me
serve others” (strengths use);
o Through mindfulness practice, I realize now that I can feel OK with myself and
who I am and that this use of perspective can help me make decisions”
(mindfulness use).
Case discussions of MBSP
[Authors note: For confidentiality purposes, the identifying information and other elements
discussed in the following cases have been edited while maintaining core themes/outcomes of
the MBSP experience.]
Supporting Teams in the Workplace
Background: A small marketing firm located in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia and co-owned
by two middle-aged, male executives, invited one of the authors [JL] to meet and discuss
possible solutions to perceived problems within the organization. One executive, the CEO, was
interested in exploring and implementing mindfulness as a tool for enhancing awareness within
the organization. Initially, the other executive, the CFO, did not want to participate, saying that
the staff will benefit, but he doesn’t need it. Following discussions around the importance of
pursuing greater transparency and unity among all the members of the organization, and the
potential of MBSP to be a catalyst for this change, the leaders changed their mind and both
openly participated.
Description of the Problem: This small business consisted of 2 teams, each with its own manager
who then reported to one of the owners. Each team addressed different functions but the
intention was that they work alongside each other, supporting mutual goals for the organization.
Political differences between the two teams had previously led to competition between the teams
rather than collaboration. This was, in turn, leading to increased levels of staff stress and claims
of workplace bullying. Tension was often high in the workplace environment. Prior to the
implementation of MBSP, one of the owners described concerns that the levels of stress, anger,
and frequent employee disengagement within the organization seemed to be unusually high when
compared with other companies in the same sector. The owners had previously attempted to
address disengagement and presenteeism with outside consultants, webinars, incentives, and
other methods without success. The goals in bringing MBSP to their firm were twofold:
1. Help staff manage personal and work-related stresses.
2. Build greater team cohesion within the organization.
Implementation: 87% of staff (including the two owners and two managers) commenced MBSP,
which was conducted over 10 weeks due to travel/work commitments of senior management.
Homework was completed by half of the participants with all participants doing at least a
minimal amount. Participation was generally guarded, but 80% of commencing staff completed
the 8-week course. The owners were interviewed after 4 weeks and all staff completed pre- and
post- questionnaires.
Results: The owners perceived significant changes in staff interactions between the first and last
weeks of the program. A common and positive language encouraged teams to focus on
individual and group strengths, instead of focusing on competition and flaws (building their
strength of perspective). One of the owners observed: “the VIA Survey and character strengths
work was used to effectively solve disputes and successfully resolve tension on four occasions.
We all spoke the same language and took an objective perspective.” A participant commented
that what struck her most about the course was the “positive, here and now focus; looking for the
good; and appreciating others’ strengths. Another said that “MBSP provided us with a shared
experience that was honest and open, and it allowed us to better understand and value each
others’ strengths.
There were 2 key departures from the organization within six months of completing the course
and both of these were individuals who had embraced the program and the ongoing practice of
mindfulness. It is possible that the insight afforded to these individuals through the program and
ongoing mindfulness practice gave them the clarity to see they were the wrong fit for the
organization (or the organization was the wrong fit for them). One person who also embraced the
program sought additional coaching support following completion of MBSP. Her resilience
continued to improve and after mindful deliberation, decided to stay with the organization and
build her strength of leadership.
One-hundred percent of staff who attended every session (80% of commencing staff) gave
feedback that the program had helped them better manage stressful situations, both within and
outside of work. The MBSP program helped them recognize, appreciate, and prioritize the
character strengths of their colleagues, rather than ruminate and fault-find. These improvements
proved to be critical factors in improving team cohesion and boosting the strength of teamwork.
Conclusion: The owners were very satisfied with the engagement and positive outcomes of the
program. In particular, they stated that, as a multi-week program with ongoing support over 2
full months, MBSP was more valuable to them than other courses they’ve provided to their staff.
Discussions are currently underway for a monthly maintenance program.
“Prevention is Better Than Cure”
Background: A busy restaurant business located near the central business district in Sydney,
Australia was looking to support its staff with a stress management program. Staff mentioned
they were interested in learning to meditate, so to enhance commitment and attendance to MBSP,
the middle-aged business owner requested that each of his staff participants contribute a weekly
co-payment to attend the program.
Description of the Problem: The owner became aware that his staff were having difficulties in
managing their stress levels. Although there were no serious issues at present, recent legislation
regarding duty of care for the health of staff (including mental health) meant that he was driven
to teach them skills that would prevent any major problems arising due to the stressful nature of
the work. All staff were under 30 years of age and single, often switched on to phone and social
media and experiencing the everyday stressors of 21st century living in a fast-paced city. In
addition, nearly every employee worked long hours, usually standing or walking for most of their
shift, without structured meal breaks, and experienced the implicit demands that come with
working with the public such as having to maintain an upbeat façade even when feeling tired,
unwell, or unhappy. The owner felt that staff were distracted and not present enough with the
Implementation: Weekly, two-hour sessions were conducted before the restaurant opened for
business. All 17 staff members (including the owner) commenced and completed the MBSP
program. They were committed to the program, always on time and the majority completed the
recommended homework activities, including journaling and meditating.
Results: The owner was impressed with the group participation and engagement and with the
application of concepts from MBSP into the workplace setting (e.g., using the character strengths
verbiage; displaying mindful listening to one another). The feedback from staff was that the
group experience “got better each week” and that it “exceeded expectations.” The program
theme that helped them most was Mindfulness of the Golden Mean,” which emphasizes using
mindfulness for balanced character strengths expression, including context sensitivity, the use of
character strength constellations, and managing strengths overuse and underuse. Staff were
especially engaged in learning and practicing the loving-kindness meditation and building their
strength of perspective when meditating on a problem. During discussion they expressed their
strength of gratitude, saying they “felt proud” that they were participating in the course. The
owner, a protective and nurturing man who readily displayed his signature strengths of kindness
and love, enjoyed seeing the personal growth that took place each week among his staff. He felt
that he had provided an opportunity for staff to learn important life skills (e.g., a new way to
practice leadership), and observed that even the quieter staff had gained greater confidence (e.g.,
realizing they could turn mindful attention to their signature strengths during the busy restaurant
hours). One participant in particular who was struggling with a difficult personal situation was
able to step back with his perspective strength to view his stressors in a different way, his
bravery strength to face his problems directly, and to manage his suffering through self-kindness.
At the conclusion of the program, the staff requested MBSP booster sessions on a bimonthly
basis. The booster sessions, arranged as an interactive and informative experience, were
particularly valued and gathered a full attendance at each session. These have supported the staff
in maintaining their MBSP practices.
“Encouraging Self-Care for Enhanced Clinical Care”
Background: A grant was received by a large city children’s hospital in the United States to
provide a well-being training for a multidisciplinary team, including case workers, nurses,
therapists, and administrative staff. The MBSP program was capped at 20 participants and a co-
payment was made by each participant to ensure their commitment for the full 8 weeks.
The program coordinator who managed logistics each week explained that the staff needed to
learn better self-care to help avoid burnout. Offering wellness programs for staff (e.g., physical
fitness programs) had been used in the past with only modest success. On this occasion, the
coordinator and team believed that an optimal match might be found in a staff mental fitness
Description of the Problem: Staff working with medically ill children may experience more than
the usual amount of workplace stress as they manage the expectations and fears of the parents,
handle a variety of administrative requirements, and attend to the emotional and physical needs
of the children. This particular staff explained how these stressors are compounded when their
own professional and personal stress loads are factored in.
Implementation: The program was open to both clinical and non-clinical staff. The staff who
engaged in the opportunity were either working in direct care or administrative roles. No
physicians enrolled in the program and while this was not investigated it was suspected that
scheduling was the main barrier. Although the program was funded by a grant, a nominal co-
payment was requested to encourage full participation and attendance.
Results: Sixteen of the 20 staff (80%) who originally enrolled in the program attended 100% of
the sessions. Verbal participation in class was initially guarded as there were concerns about
confidentiality between co-workers. Once this was addressed with open discussion, participation
improved. For home practice, several participants kept journals and engaged in a routine
mindfulness meditation practice, finding that it helped them feel happier, less stressed, and more
in control both at work and at home.
One man attending the course had a terminally ill child that the team was caring for, and when
the child passed away he explained that her chronic and terminal illness was the reason he had
decided to attend the course and that it helped him enormously in terms of acceptance, coping,
letting go, and strengths expression (e.g., love, forgiveness, hope, bravery). He also described a
positive carryover effect to family members who had not attended the course.
Another participant had a chronic skin condition that visibly and profoundly improved over the
eight weeks. Such effects have previously been documented by Kabat Zinn et al. (1998) who
concluded that mindfulness meditation delivered by audiotape during ultraviolet light therapy
increased the healing rate of lesions in patients with psoriasis.
The group expressed interest in two types of MBSP booster sessions: monthly follow-up that
reviewed and reinforced core concepts from MBSP, integrated in additional ideas (e.g.,
positivity), and continued engaging in practices; second, the group decided to meet between
themselves as an open group for 15-30 minutes once per week to practice meditation with one
another prior to work.
Conclusion: The majority of participants stated that MBSP gave them the skills they were
seeking when they enrolled in the course. Some of these skills were put to the test of life in a
significant way (e.g., with the death of a child). Those that attend the booster sessions benefit
from the regular connection, support and knowledge they gain.
Future Research
MBSP, while based in the science of mindfulness-based practice and the emerging science of
character, is a new program and therefore the opportunities for further research are significant.
We, and other MBSP leaders, have observed boosts to well-being, engagement, meaning,
strengths use, mindfulness practice, purpose in life, problem management, emotional resilience
and positive relationships improvement, but encourage more rigorous studies of MBSP that
would involve randomization and follow-up analyses over longer time periods examining these
outcomes. We suggest researchers study the effects of MBSP with other populations (e.g.,
disabilities, psychological disorders, chronic illness, youth, geriatric) and settings (e.g., medical,
business, psychiatric, education, defense, corrective services). Also, what are the mediating
variables in the MBSP program? Are the benefits and mediators consistent with what is found in
other mindfulness-based programs? Are there unique benefits of MBSP in particular?
Delivering MBSP in the business context raises additional research questions relating to
productivity. For example, research conducted by the iOpener Institute in the UK (Pryce-Jones,
2010) found that employees who are happy at work stay up to four times longer in their job, are
at least twice as focused on task and take one-tenth of the sick leave that their less happy
colleagues. Studies have shown that both mindfulness and character strength expression can
increase a person’s well-being. It would therefore be of interest to measure whether MBSP,
which combines both of these, could be as, or more effective in increasing productivity at work
than other work-based employee engagement programs.
The integration of mindfulness and character strengths programmatically in lecture points,
discussion themes, meditations, and homework practices is a novel contribution. But what is the
additive effect of integrating these areas of positive psychology? Does the integration lead to
greater maintenance of meditation practices (i.e., termed “strong mindfulness”)? What is the role
of signature strengths in overcoming meditation barriers? Does the integration lead directly to
more balanced and sustained character strengths expressions (i.e., termed “mindful strengths
We are also interested in different delivery mechanisms for MBSP. In addition to the initial
successes of face-to-face and online delivery to groups and to individuals, what additional
modalities might be utilized? One of the authors (RMN) is beginning the adaptation of a self-
guided MBSP process by use of a workbook and CD. Would this lead to additional or distinct
benefits for participants? Might other web-based and smartphone app mechanisms be another
route of delivery that would reveal positive benefits?
As noted in the case discussions, we find that the integration of mindfulness and character
strengths is strikingly empowering in helping participants to manage problems effectively and
improve relationships. Further analysis of the underlying factors and mechanisms for each is
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Table 1: VIA Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues
©Copyright 2004-2015, VIA Institute on Character. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
The Virtue of Wisdom cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge
Creativity [originality, ingenuity]: Thinking of novel and productive ways to
conceptualize and do things; includes artistic achievement but is not limited to it
Curiosity [interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience]: Taking an interest in
ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring
and discovering
Judgment [open-mindedness; critical thinking]: Thinking things through and examining
them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one's mind in light
of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly
Love of Learning: Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on
one's own or formally; related to the strength of curiosity but goes beyond it to describe
the tendency to add systematically to what one knows
Perspective [wisdom]: Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of
looking at the world that make sense to oneself/others
The Virtue of Courage emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish
goals in the face of opposition, external or internal
Bravery [valor]: Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for
what’s right even if there’s opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular; includes
physical bravery but is not limited to it
Perseverance [persistence, industriousness]: Finishing what one starts; persevering in a
course of action in spite of obstacles; “getting it out the door”; taking pleasure in
completing tasks
Honesty [authenticity, integrity]: Speaking the truth but more broadly presenting oneself
in a genuine way and acting in a sincere way; being without pretense; taking
responsibility for one's feelings and actions
Zest [vitality, enthusiasm, vigor, energy]: Approaching life with excitement and energy;
not doing things halfway or halfheartedly; living life as an adventure; feeling alive and
The Virtue of Humanity - interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others
Love (capacity to love and be loved): Valuing close relations with others, in particular
those in which sharing & caring are reciprocated; being close to people
Kindness [generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, altruistic love, "niceness"]: Doing
favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them
Social Intelligence [emotional intelligence, personal intelligence]: Being aware of the
motives/feelings of others and oneself; knowing what to do to fit into different social
situations; knowing what makes other people tick
The Virtue of Justice - civic strengths that underlie healthy community life
Teamwork [citizenship, social responsibility, loyalty]: Working well as a member of a
group or team; being loyal to the group; doing one's share
Fairness: Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness & justice; not
letting feelings bias decisions about others; giving everyone a fair chance
Leadership: Encouraging a group of which one is a member to get things done and at the
same time maintain good relations within the group; organizing group activities and
seeing that they happen.
The Virtue of Temperance strengths that protect against excess
Forgiveness [mercy]: Forgiving those who have done wrong; accepting others’
shortcomings; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful
Humility [modesty]: Letting one's accomplishments speak for themselves; not regarding
oneself as more special than one is
Prudence: Being careful about one's choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing
things that might later be regretted
Self-Regulation [self-control]: Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined;
controlling one's appetites and emotions
The Virtue of Transcendence - strengths that forge connections to the universe & provide
Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence [awe, wonder, elevation]: Noticing and
appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life,
from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience
Gratitude: Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen; taking time to
express thanks
Hope [optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation]: Expecting the best in the future
and working to achieve it; believing that a good future is something that can be brought
Humor [playfulness]: Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing
the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes
Spirituality [religiousness, faith, purpose]: Having coherent beliefs about the higher
purpose & meaning of the universe; knowing where one fits within the larger scheme;
having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort
Table 2: Core Topic Areas of MBSP (Niemiec, 2014)
Core Topic
Mindfulness and autopilot
The autopilot mind is pervasive; insights and change
opportunities start with mindful attention.
Your signature strengths
Identify what is best in you; this can unlock potential
to engage more in work and relationships and reach
higher personal potential.
Obstacles are
The practice of mindfulness and of strengths
exploration leads immediately to two things
obstacles/barriers to the practice and a wider
appreciation for the little things in life.
Strengthening mindfulness
in everyday life
Mindfulness helps us attend to and nourish the best,
innermost qualities in ourselves and others, while
reducing negative judgments of self and others;
conscious use of strengths can help us deepen and
maintain a mindfulness practice.
Valuing your relationships
Mindful attending can nourish two types of
relationships: relationships with others and our
relationship with ourselves. Our relationships with
ourself contributes to self-growth and can have an
immediate impact on our connection with others.
Mindfulness of the golden
Mindfulness helps to focus on problems directly and
character strengths help to reframe and offer different
perspectives not immediately apparent.
MBSP ½-day retreat
Mindful living and character strengths apply not only
to good meditation practice but also to daily
conversation, eating, walking, sitting, reflecting, and
the nuances therein (e.g., opening the refrigerator
door, turning a doorknob, creating a smile). This day
is therefore, a practice day.
Authenticity and goodness
It takes character (e.g., courage) to be a more authentic
“you” and it takes character (e.g., hope) to create a
strong future that benefits both oneself and others. Set
mindfulness and character strengths goals with
authenticity and goodness in the forefront of the mind.
Your engagement with life
Stick with those practices that have been working well
and watch for the mind’s tendency to revert back to
automatic habits that are deficit-based, unproductive,
or that prioritize what’s wrong in you and others.
Engage in an approach that fosters awareness and
celebration of what is strongest in you and others.
Table 3: Standard Structure of MBSP Sessions (2014)
Focus Area
Opening meditation
Start group with “practice,” allows for
letting go of preceding tension and
ushers in a different focus.
Discussion: whole group or multiple small
Review participants’ practice from last
week with the following catalyst:
What went well?
Offering new material aligned with
core themes.
Core practice with mindfulness and
character strengths is experienced.
Virtue circle
Structured, respectful approach for
mindful listening/speaking practice
and strengths-spotting/appreciating
Suggested homework
Review of focus areas in between
Closing meditation
Letting go of session to come fully
into present moment; mindful
transitioning to the next part of the
Table 4: Novel practices across the 8 MBSP sessions (2014)
Core Practice
Raisin exercise/mindful
Eating one raisin as if
“for the first time;”
eating with all 5 senses.
Poignant practice in beginner’s
mind; offers a microcosm by
which mindfulness can be
applied into daily life.
In pairs or triads,
participants share recent
positive experiences and
practice steps involving
the spotting of strengths.
Offers a shift in how we
perceive stories and how we
typically approach
conversations; combats
strength blindness.
Statue meditation
Participants engage in a
challenge involving
holding up their arms
and facing the mental &
physical obstacles and
discomforts that ensue.
Facing meditation obstacles
and reframing difficulties and
stressors that arise as
“obstacles” that can be targeted
with any of the 24 character
strengths and mindful
Practicing standing and
walking meditation, and
spotting strengths that
arise and that are used
during walking.
Strengthening mindfulness in
daily life; bringing strengths to
a task often taken for granted;
deepening the experience of
mindfulness thru strengths.
meditation (targeting
Practice of traditional
meditation focused on
cultivating warmth and
compassion; followed by
an open meditation on a
strength of the
participants’ choosing.
Experiencing the potential to
target any of the 24 strengths;
distinction of 2 different types
of meditation in doing so.
Character strengths 360
Review of feedback of a
Offers numerous mindfulness
2-5 minute survey in
which participants
receive feedback from
several people on his or
her character strengths.
opportunities involving
strengths awareness, blindness,
potential opportunities,
appreciation, and handling
feedback; implications for
positive relationships.
Best possible self and
defining moments
Structured exercises
involving a choice of
envisioning a future best
self or reflecting on a
defining moment.
Mindful reflection or mindful
envisioning with strengths;
linking goals, identity, and
Golden nuggets
Sharing key insights and
long-term practices.
Linking current experiences
with next steps; use of positive
Table 5: A Sampling of 10 Integration Activities in MBSP (2014)
Name of Practice
Type of Integration
Research Base or
Signature strengths
Bring attention to the
use of one of your
highest strengths in a
new way each day.
Mindful strengths use
Gander et al. (2012);
Seligman et al.
Spot strengths in
another person’s
sharing; spot strengths
in your daily routines;
spot strengths in the
media (e.g., movies,
Mindful strengths use
Linley (2008);
Niemiec (2013);
Niemiec & Wedding
Strengths appreciation
(also called the
Speak Up!” exercise)
Share the value and
impact that someone
else’s strengths
expression had upon
Mindful strengths use
Adler & Fagley
(2005); Algoe, Gable,
& Maisel (2010); Bao
& Lyubomirsky
Facing meditation
Name one barrier to
your meditation
practice (e.g., mind
wandering; noises;
discomfort), and
describe how each of
your top strengths
could help you face or
overcome it.
Strong mindfulness
Brahm (2006);
Kornfield (1993);
Lomas et al. (2014);
Niemiec (2014);
Niemiec, Rashid, &
Spinella (2012).
Bring strengths to
mindful living
Identify one area of
routine that you could
bring mindfulness to
(e.g., driving, eating,
listening, walking).
Notice the strengths
that are already
present in the
experience. How
might the experience
be invigorated with
additional strengths?
Strong mindfulness
Nhat Hanh (1979);
Nhat Hanh (1993);
Niemiec (2013).
Body mindfulness
Pure present moment
mindfulness while
using strengths to
explore, maintain
attention, and be
gentle to oneself.
Strong mindfulness
Call, Miron, & Orcutt
(2013); Kabat-Zinn
(1990); Kabat-Zinn
(2005); Mirams et al.
(2012); Ussher et al.
Find balance by
attending to strengths
overuse and underuse
Examine life
situations for
strengths overuse and
underuse and consider
how other strengths
can bring balance.
Mindful strengths use
Kashdan, & Minhas
(2011); Grant &
Schwartz (2011);
Niemiec (2014).
Targeting specific
Use meditation to
explore and boost any
of the 24 strengths.
Mindful strengths use
Amaro (2010); Brach
(2003); Fredrickson et
al. (2008); Salzberg
Positive reappraisal
with strengths
Skillful use of
mindful listening and
speaking to reframe
challenges with
character strengths
Garland, Gaylord, &
Fredrickson (2011);
Garland, Gaylord, &
Park (2009).
Character strengths
breathing space
Mindfulness practice
involving the use of
curiosity, self-
regulation, and
Bishop et al. (2004);
Niemiec (2014);
Segal, Williams, &
Teasdale (2013).
... Mindfulness and character strengths are believed to be closely intertwined and naturally enhance each other (Duan & Ho, 2018). As noted by Niemiec and Lissing (2016), "at its best, the practice of mindfulness is strengths, and the practice of strengths is mindful" (p. 7). Hence, integrating these two practices into one intervention package is likely to amplify the positive effects of both individual interventions. ...
... MBSP is designed with four themes, as described by Niemiec and Lissing (2016). These include: "(1) individuals can improve upon their awareness and strengths, (2) mindfulness awareness and character strengths lead to valued outcomes, (3) mindfulness, in particular, can enhance character strengths, awareness, deployment and balanced uses, and (4) character strengths can support individuals' practice of meditation and mindful living and assist in the maintenance of mindfulness in the long-run" (Niemiec & Lissing, 2016, p. 3). ...
... Some research has been done specifically looking at MBSP's relationship with job satisfaction and performance compared to MBSR (mindfulnessbased stress reduction) and a control group. MBSP may be beneficial in work settings, specifically in helping people to manage stressful situations and support the understanding of colleagues' strengths (Niemiec & Lissing, 2016). Pang and Ruch (2019) worked to assess this theory, comparing interventions for individuals in their employment. ...
Positive psychology has brought us two key tools to support the well-being of individuals: character strengths and mindfulness. Character strengths, or the positive characteristics that make up who a person is, can be utilized to build awareness on identity and ability. Character strengths interventions have been researched for several decades, with newer utilizations in rehabilitation settings. Similarly, mindfulness, while originating centuries ago, has found modern uses in vocational settings. Mindfulness, defined as the ability to maintain attention in an intentional way, has been scientifically shown to improve well-being. These two interventions have recently been combined within Mindfulness-Based Strength Practice (MBSP; Niemiec, 2014). This intervention focuses on character strengths and mindfulness in a combined format and has shown preliminary evidence for benefit in a variety of settings. This paper explores MBSP and proposes its potential benefits in vocational rehabilitation settings, along with additional research implications and considerations for practice.
... However, as Ivtzan (2016) has pointed out, most mindfulness-based intervention studies measure outcomes in terms of symptoms and problems (not growth, flourishing, and well-being). Although mindfulness studies relevant to PP (rather than clinical psychology) are exceptions to the rule, there are now several promising mindfulnessbased PP interventions designed to promote well-being in nonclinical populations, including Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (Niemiec & Lissing, 2016) and the Mindfulness-Based Flourishing Program (Ivtzan et al., 2016b). ...
... The program emphasizes developing authenticity and virtuous character. Niemiec and Lissing (2016) have reported promising results from three case studies and two nonrandomized pilot studies examining its efficacy. Similarly, a pilot study of an online version of the intervention (Ivtzan et al., 2016a) found significant medium-to-large improvements in life satisfaction, flourishing, engagement, and signature strengths. ...
... Three Ways to Integrate Mindfulness and Character Strengths. Niemiec and Lissing (2016) have identified three ways to integrate mindfulness and character strengths: indirect focus, single strength integration, and total strength integration. ...
... These topics have been indirectly or loosely correlated with character strengths (Shogren et al., 2017). For example, through Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, Niemiec & Lissing (2016) identified four outcomes of mindfulness that are indirectly connected with character strengths. First, the ability to observe negative thoughts with kindness and curiosity was correlated with the character strengths of kindness, critical thinking/judgment, selfregulation, and curiosity. ...
The youth corrections system is in need of reform. Emerging work from the field of positive criminology is working to shift the focus from retribution and risk management to strengths building and positive youth development. Research suggests, targeted strategies from positive psychology can provide youth with opportunities to counteract the potentially deleterious effects of incarceration, especially as adolescent neurobehavioral development offers a ripe opportunity for positive interventions that enhance wellbeing. Strengths-based compassion, the proposed positive intervention described within, uses mindfulness, character strengths, and the cultivation of compassion to improve self-regulation and self-discipline, increase self-esteem, improve social skills, and reduce recidivism. The proposed eight-week program is designed through a trauma-responsive lens that has been adapted for youth in a correctional facility and creates the potential for revolutionary change in the hearts and minds of young offenders. This change positions youth on a productive path in which they desist from future criminal activity and increase pathways for flourishing in their lives after incarceration.
... The notion of curiosity over judgement draws upon principles from cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness, challenging negative self-judgments and promoting a positive and inquisitive mindset. Mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy have been associated with reduced stress, and greater wellbeing and personal development (Baer & Sauer, 2009;Niemiec & Lissing, 2016;van Agteren et al., 2021). The principle 'Evidence based -research, school data, people's experience -and challenge the evidence' draws on the ideas of adaptive expertise and person-activity fit. ...
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Improving educator wellbeing presents a complex challenge due to the variety of influences on wellbeing at the individual, relational, and contextual (school and policy) levels. This complexity contributes to the gap between the effectiveness of positive psychology interventions (PPIs) and their real-world success. To bridge this gap, it is essential to understand and adapt to school context when integrating psychological interventions into educational settings. This study addresses this gap through an approach to developing an educator wellbeing program that embraces the idea of understanding and adapting to context. We use a theory of change approach to designing a program, that outlines the context, design rationale, activities, and outcomes of the program. The program is multi-level, targeting influences on educator wellbeing at the individual, relational, and contextual (school) levels. Additionally, it employs a multi-foci strategy, encompassing a range of activities that target different levels and allow for adaptation. We present a case study of program implementation in one school, exploring contextual factors, adapting the program accordingly, and evaluating the degree to which theory of change outcomes were achieved. Program participants experienced improved wellbeing and a relational space characterised by more positive interactions with colleagues. This design and case study contribute to the ongoing discourse on progressing towards context-specific, whole-school approaches to wellbeing.
... e character strengths during formal meditation and throughout the day. Participants learn to appreciate and celebrate their character strengths; recognize when these strengths are operating, overused, or underused; and utilize their strengths to solve problems and navigate life. The program emphasizes developing authenticity and virtuous character.Niemiec and Lissing (2016) have reported promising results of three case studies and two nonrandomized pilot studies of its efficacy. Similarly, a pilot study of an online version of the intervention(Ivtzan et al., 2016a) found significant medium-to-large improvements in life satisfaction, flourishing, engagement, and signature strengths. In sum, Mindfulness-Base ...
... Indeed, mindfulness itself has been said to be the product of the exercise of two character strengths: self-regulation and curiosity (Bishop et al., 2004). The efficacy of mindfulness-based strengths practice (MBSP) has been researched and experimental results provide evidence for ONESTOPers Guide 36 positive well-being effects in the workplace and collegiate domains, such as an increase in satisfaction with life (Ivtzan et al., 2016;Niemiec & Lissing, 2016;Wingert et al., 2020). invites workers to take mindful pauses during their day to relieve stress, connect with the present moment and reconnect with their character strengths. ...
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The Penn ONESTOP Service Center at the University of Pennsylvania is facing numerous challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, workplace environment changes, workload increase, role reclassification, personal pandemic-related challenges, and racial injustice. Penn ONESTOP seeks to increase resilience. Informed by current positive psychological literature, we propose three interventions to help Penn ONESTOP systematically develop character strengths awareness and literacy, develop a set of cultural core values to guide and unify workplace behavior, and build resilience. We recommend activities including character strengths conversations, strengths-spotting and recognition, a cultural core values workshop with positive introductions, and a series of resilience micro-lessons to put into practice. We suggest quantitatively measuring results with a culture & climate and engagement survey. Building a foundation of character strengths and shared core values will enhance and support improving resilience in Penn ONESTOP staff, setting them on the path to flourishing.
... The integration of mindfulness and character strengths is a relatively new area of research and practice, however, studies are showing significant potential for this integration in the workplace/organizations (Niemiec & Lissing, 2016;Pang & Ruch, 2019a), schools/education (Lottman, Zawaly, & Niemiec, 2016;Wingert et al., 2020), special populations (Sharp, Niemiec, & Lawrence, 2016;Shogren et al., 2017), and personal development (Baer, 2015;Niemiec, 2012). The manualized and in-depth integration of mindfulness and character strengths is found in the evidence-based Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP) program by Niemiec (2014), based on the universal system of strengths referred to as the VIA Classification of character strengths (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) and based on the latest research in the fields of mindfulness and character strengths individually. ...
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The integration of mindfulness and character strengths is an emerging area of research and practice. The evidence-based, 8-week program, Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP) represents a unique approach in that the starting point and focus is on what is best in human beings – their character strengths. These qualities are then leveraged to improve one’s meditation practice or area of mindful living (referred to as “strong mindfulness”) and in turn, mindfulness is used as a lens for deepening awareness and use of strengths (referred to as “mindful strengths use”). While early controlled studies find MBSP to elicit well-being and reduce stress, and find it to be superior to popular mindfulness programs for different outcomes, we are not aware of any published qualitative analyses examining the MBSP participant’s experience. This study offers insights from a large international sample and extends the empirical data on MBSP, including the novel finding of benefit for building positive relationships, as well as confirming other findings such as the most common obstacles people confront in mindfulness practices. Additional areas discussed using qualitative and quantitative findings include the most beneficial mindfulness/character strengths practices, the use of inward and outward-oriented practices, cognizance of the integration of mindfulness and character strengths, and self-reported positive outcomes, including substantial benefits to stress and problem management and boosts to meaning, purpose, engagement, accomplishment, and sense of self.
... Signature strengths refer to stable yet malleable capacities and virtues that prompt people to act in specific ways (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). The use of strengths has been positively associated with higher levels of well-being and resiliency in learning and serve as a buffer against the deleterious effects of stress (Dahlsgaard, Peterson & Seligman, 2005;Niemiec & Lissing, 2016). Seligman and colleagues developed the Values in Action (VIA) classification of six virtues and 24 strengths (Dahlsgaard et al., 2005;Peterson & Seligman, 2004). ...
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Signature strengths, such as gratitude, can assist students in navigating the demanding first-year experience. However, more research is needed to explore the role of gratitude in relation to cognitive benefits for students. This article reports on a constructivist grounded theory study that explored South African students' conceptions and enactments of gratitude with regard to their learning efforts. Qualitative data were collected in individual open-ended interviews (n = 22, age-range = 18-23) and analysed using three interdependent coding phases (initial coding, focused coding and theoretical coding). The resultant grounded theory was titled "˜Thanks: Gratitude and learning resilience amongst first-year university students". The findings revealed that gratitude could take many forms and has a positive qualitative impact on students' learning resilience, and that gratitude and learning resilience are emancipatory in nature. Limitations and areas for further research conclude the discussion.
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The purpose of this study was to reflect on the possible interconnections among self-efficacy, mindfulness, and self-compassion in positive psychology in higher education. In this paper, the discussion was as follows: (i) selfefficacy from Albert Bandura to positive psychology; (ii) mindfulness in positive psychology: from tradition to the science of well-being; (iii) selfcompassion in positive psychology: from Kristin Neff's perspective; (iv) possible interconnections among self-efficacy, mindfulness, and selfcompassion in positive psychology in higher education; and (v) final considerations. In the studies found for inclusion in this narrative review, it was reported that self-efficacy, mindfulness, and self-compassion, from a positive psychology perspective, are protective factors against psychological illness and promoters of better academic performance in college students. Thus, it is understood that these constructs are essential for the management and coping with academic difficulties that favor good psychological adjustment in students in higher education.
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Good character is a principal area in Positive Psychology. The current thesis assesses character strengths with mixed method: quantitative though factor analysis and qualitative using content analysis. Main purpose is evaluate and analyze the character strengths factors in participants from Ecuador, Peru and Paraguay to identify whether international findings are replicated; and verify replication in each country independently. A non probabilistic intentional sample was used: 854 university students (273 Ecuadorians, 277 Peruvians and 304 Paraguayan). Participants completed Inventario de Virtudes y Fortalezas del Carácter IVyF (Cosentino & Castro Solano, 2012) and Protocolo de Cualidades Positivas (Castro Solano & Cosentino, 2013). Main results show three character strengths factors: moderation, progress and fraternity. Secondly, this three factor model is the most parsimonious and replicable despite some differences. Finally, dimensional structure has intercultural differences because each countries have specific relations. Main conclusion show three factors of character strengths and intercultural differences in dimensional structure of each country. Data has limitations: used sample could not be an average citizen of each culture and countries were considered as national culture. Future studies should research intracultural differences in character strengths, identify causes of intercultural differences in each population and analyze character strengths in others Latin-American countries.
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Mindfulness practice and character strengths have been determined as being two separate positive psychology interventions (PPIs). However, to date, no programme has researched and investigated the effects of combining these theoretically interlinked practices together, with the aim of enhancing wellbeing from a positive psychology perspective. The current controlled study was designed to establish the effectiveness of an 8-week online mindfulness-based character strengths practice (MBSP) on wellbeing, for the general population. Nineteen participants completed the MBSP programme, and 20 participants were placed in a no-intervention control group. Self-report questionnaires, including Satisfaction With Life Scale, Flourishing Scale, Positive Psychotherapy Inventory, and a Signature Strengths Inventory Scale, were used to evaluate the levels of wellbeing and flourishing pre-and post-intervention. Wilcoxon signed-rank tests found that MBSP participants scored significantly higher in all four measures post-MBSP, whereas participants in the control group did not, with the only exception of a slight increase in satisfaction with life scores. The study found MBSP to be the first PPI programme aimed at the general population, which explicitly focuses on character strengths to elicit significant positive changes and increase levels of wellbeing. Given our preliminary results, larger samples utilising randomised control trial methods should attempt to confirm these preliminary findings. The programme's future is promising, since its application appears to have great potential to positively influence people's lives, thus moving closer to the goal of increasing societal flourishing.
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The VIA Classification is a widely used framework for helping individuals discover, explore, and use those qualities that are strongest in them – their character strengths. The VIA Inventory of Strengths is an accessible and widely used assessment instrument that measures 24 universally valued strengths. Research has found a number of important links between these character strengths and valued outcomes (e.g., life satisfaction, achievement). The practice of character strengths has not been studied as extensively; however, a number of practices, strength-based models, and applications are emerging with good potential.
Mindfulness is typically described as a form of nonjudgmental, nonreactive attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, including cognitions, emotions, and bodily sensations, as well as sights, sounds, smells, and other environmental stimuli. The cultivation of mindfulness is a central component of Eastern meditation traditions and lies at the heart of Buddhist teachings about the nature of reality and human experience. This chapter argues that mindfulness cultivates human characteristics that are central to positive psychology, including character strengths and virtues and psychological wellbeing, but it does so through acceptance-based rather than change-based methods. Because mindfulness training appears to have a broad range of outcomes, including enhancement of positive characteristics, its potential contribution to optimal human functioning warrants substantially increased attention. The chapter examines the literature supporting this view, discusses the processes or mechanisms through which this may occur, and suggests directions for future research.