Why Merge Mindfulness and Strengths?
The book provides a primer on mindfulness, including embracing imperfection, bringing more of who you are into your practice, discovering calmness under pressure, finding a personal path to being mindful, and discovering mindfulness versus the auto pilot experience of life. Niemiec shows how adding character strengths to the practice of mindfulness increases the attunement needed for behavior change activation. Importantly, strengths help individuals use what comes naturally to them to engage in mindfulness.
Using mindfulness can also improve the ability to reflect on and use strengths in new ways. Strengths are inherently positive. As a positive psychology practitioner myself, I find it affirming that Niemiec recommends using strengths language to help clients reappraise their behavior. For example, instead of saying someone is procrastinating, they might reflect on underusing their strengths of perseverance or self-regulation.
How the Book is Organized
The book is structured to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of the MBSP program. It begins with insightful introductions to mindfulness and character strengths, offering a succinct and deep base for those unfamiliar with these concepts. Niemiec delves into the interplay and the potential synergy mindfulness and strengths hold when effectively combined. This foundational knowledge sets the stage for the more applied aspects of the program which can be delivered to an individual or in a group setting.Meticulously outlined, complete with objectives, activities, and discussions, Niemiec explains each concept and how to use it, as well as providing research evidence for why it works. Themes in the eight-session evidence-based program at the core of Mindfulness and Character Strengths include:
- Signature Strengths and Strengths Spotting
- Facing Obstacles
- Mindful Living
- Mindfulness, Strengths, and Choice
- Committing to Living Deeply
Each session offers opportunities to deepen both mindfulness and strength practice and to reflect deeply through guided activities that are included in the book. Niemiec features dialogues with clients to demonstrate both what you might say to prompt a client, and how they might respond, so that as a practitioner you can anticipate useful applications of the program. He alternates the instructional text with inspiring quotations and real-life stories that can help theoretical aspects of the book resonate in a more personal and reflective way. This could have been a dry text, but instead it is both engaging and accessible.
What I Liked
One of my new favorite activities that I learned from the book is Strengths Subtraction, in which participants imagine what it would be like to no longer have a particular strength. What would they be unable to do? What strength might they have to call on instead? When the activity comes to an end, what new appreciation might they have gained for something they may have been taking for granted?
Ryan Niemiec offers both a conceptual framework and a practice grounded in scientific research. He presents research in a comprehensible, practical, but not oversimplified way. Practitioners will know what to do but also why it works. This balance is crucial for professionals in psychology, education, coaching, and management who seek reliable methods backed by empirical evidence.
The book is also long, the font is very small, and the exquisitely detailed content might seem initially daunting to those new to either mindfulness or character strengths. However, readers will find thorough, clear explanations and a gradual build-up of concepts with plenty of review and reflection. Throughout the book Niemiec thoughtfully includes:
- Helpful charts that summarize content
- Tip sheets that anticipate challenges
- Practical examples for using and appreciating strengths and mindfulness
- Illustrative stories
Niemiec, R. (2023). Mindfulness and Character Strengths: A Practitioner’s Guide to MBSP.. 2nd Edition. Hogrefe.
Niemiec, R. (2013). Mindfulness and Character Strengths. Hogrefe.
Autumn leaf, image from the cover of Mindfulness and Character Strengths: A Practitioner’s Guide to MBSP
Ryan Niemiec from his page on the VIA Institute of Character site.
Lotus Photo by Carlos de Miguel on Unsplash