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Being Present With Your Strengths

May 30


About This Episode

(Season 5, Episode 22)

Separately, mindfulness practice and character strengths practice have been shown to improve well-being. Recent research has shown that combining these two practices may have even greater benefits.

In this episode, we continue our conversation about character strengths, a strengths-based approach to identifying the positive traits behind our thinking, feeling, and behavior.

We discuss Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice, which synthesizes character strengths and mindfulness into a single practice, and Jessica Beckendorf guides us through an activity from Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice.



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Bob Bertsch: Separately, mindfulness practice and character strengths practice have been shown to improve well-being. Recent research has shown that combining these two practices may have even greater benefits. Hi, everyone, this is Bob Bertsch and welcome to this week’s Practicing Connection practicast where we highlight a specific practice you can use in your personal and professional growth. In today’s episode, we are continuing our conversation about character strengths, a strengths-based approach to identifying the positive traits behind our thinking, feeling, and behavior. We’ll be discussing mindfulness-based strengths practice, which synthesizes character strengths and mindfulness into a single practice.

My Practicing Connection co-host Jessica Beckendorf will be guiding us through an activity from mindfulness-based strengths practice, which I think she’s going to shorten to MBSP, which I’m thankful about. That’s going to happen in just a few minutes, but first let’s learn a little bit more about it. Hi, Jessica, can you tell us more about how the combination of mindfulness and character strengths can benefit us?

Jessica Beckendorf: Yes, we do like our acronyms, don’t we? There’s actually quite a lot of benefits to integrating mindfulness and character strengths. I’ll focus on a few highlighted by Dr. Ryan Niemiec in his book Mindfulness and Character Strengths, A Practitioner’s Guide to MBSP, which stands for Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice. Dr. Niemiec is a scientist, educator, practitioner, and a global leader in mindfulness and character strengths. He points out that the integration of mindfulness and character strengths increases self-awareness of the positive potential within us, motivates people to develop, adapt, or deepen their mindfulness practice, and to use their top or signature strengths more, helps us manage overuse and underuse of strengths.

It provides a language for identifying positive traits and a way to deal with barriers during mindfulness practice. It offers a way to practice both mindfulness and a way to practice strengths awareness, as some people don’t always know where to start either practice. Overall, character strengths can help us develop our mindfulness practice, and mindfulness practice can help us deepen our knowledge and use of our character strengths. Practicing both can have positive impacts on our overall well-being across different domains of life, work, home, and beyond.

Bob Bertsch: That’s really interesting, the symbiotic relationship that, each practice is enhancing the other. I’d like to talk about some more examples of that. Let’s start with how can mindfulness enhance the character strengths practice?

Jessica Beckendorf: Consciously bringing to mind and using our character strengths with intention can have profound impacts on our overall well-being. It makes sense that applying mindfulness techniques can enhance our character strengths by helping us do things like explore our strengths and be curious about them, or help us notice when we’re on autopilot and bring our minds back to the present moment, giving our brains a chance to choose whether to bring our strengths to mind and use them with intention or not. Mindfulness strengths practice is about keeping us awake to our strengths versus on autopilot.

Day-to-day and moment-to-moment, we can use mindfulness techniques to keep returning to a state of awakeness or awareness. While you certainly can use character strengths without incorporating mindfulness, if you’re trying to become more skillful and adept at using your strengths, and if you’re seeking the benefits to your well-being that the research points to, you will need to be mindful of your strengths. Awareness alone is important, but applying mindfulness techniques keeps you aware of your strengths, how they show up, and how you might choose to use them or to use them differently, because research also points to using your strengths differently. There are benefits to that as well.

Bob Bertsch: Awesome. Let’s flip the script. How can our character strengths help us in our mindfulness practice?

Jessica Beckendorf: Yes, this is a really good question because this is where the inter-connectedness between mindfulness and character strengths I think is harder to separate. I can’t imagine a time when you’re engaging in mindfulness practice without using character strengths to help you with your practice. You might not be using your top or your signature strengths, but you are using strengths like curiosity, self-regulation, and often you’re using gratitude, spirituality, or even love, just for a few examples. If you’re like me, you might use perseverance, if you have a difficult time with mindfulness practice.

Bringing strengths to mindfulness can help you deal with obstacles that you typically have in your practice. It gives you a language to recognize a barrier and know how to move through it. If you’re tired, you can remind yourself to use your perseverance and just hang in there. The language of character strengths is really a wonderful complement to mindfulness practice. One really interesting thing is that we’re all capable of tapping into all of our character strengths. In my example, even if perseverance is not a strong strength, I can tell you that it’s at the bottom. It’s like not the bottom, but it’s like one of my bottom four.

Even if perseverance is not a strong strength, you know you can still access it. You have the potential and the power and the choice to access it. It can also help you engage with your practice more deeply. You could choose one of your signature strengths to explore during your mindfulness practice. Explore how it’s showing up in the moment or even seek to find it in the moment, or, just simply identify and label a character strength that comes up during your practice to help you engage with your mindfulness practice more deeply, which will help you to be more mindful of strengths, yours and others, during your daily life.

An example of where you might just identify and label a character strength that comes up during your practice might be if you’re doing a walking meditation, for instance. You’re doing a walking mindfulness practice and you’re noticing the beauty in nature. That’s the strength of appreciation of beauty and excellence. You can label that. If you notice that you made a little joke to yourself, you can notice that you used humor and keep bringing your mind back to your mindfulness practice while you’re labeling these strengths. Those are just a few examples. I feel like we could fill up a whole season on the topic of mindfulness and character strengths.

Bob Bertsch: This is really fascinating and I would love to fill up a whole season, but we have lots of other practices that we’re excited to share with our folks as well, including this practice that you have for us today. Can you please walk us through it?

Jessica Beckendorf: Yes, this activity is from the Mindfulness and Character Strengths book by Dr. Ryan Niemiec. I learned from this and I’ve dug into it. It’s called Character Strengths Breathing Space, the activity. It’s a mindfulness practice that explores three distinct character strengths, curiosity, self-regulation, and perspective. Even if these aren’t your top strengths, because we can all access all of the strengths, I invite you to consider these strengths as we go through the activity. Take a moment to get comfortable. When you’re ready, you can choose to close your eyes or have a soft focus somewhere on the floor or another neutral space. Begin to just notice your breath without altering how you’re breathing.

Just simply breathe in and out, and notice each time you inhale and exhale. Sometimes it can help to label it as in and out. Begin to take notice of your present moment. Open yourself to it. Observe the details. Take an interest in this moment. Notice what you can sense right now. Maybe you’re aware of sounds rising and falling. You might be aware of the contact your body makes with your seat. Allow your curiosity to explore the moment fully. Practice being curious about your thoughts and feelings, interested in whatever is in your presence right now.

Simply notice these happenings in your present moment and let each one go. If you find yourself getting caught up in one sensation or feeling. Just simply say, “What else? What else is happening in my present moment? What else is there to be curious about and take an interest in?” Now, allow your attention to narrow to just one thing. Let’s use your breath. This is the concentration phase of the breathing space, where the idea is to let go of all the happenings in your present moment, with the exception of your breathing. Allow yourself to feel the fullness of your in-breath and the fullness of your out-breath.

Feel the sensation of your breathing in your body. Concentrate just on the breath. When your mind wanders away from your breath, simply bring it back to the breath, over and over. Bring your focus back. Each time you bring your attention back to your breath, you are practicing self-regulation. This means you’re taking control of your attention, always back to your breath. While you continue to focus on your in-breath and out-breath, you can also allow your attention to expand to your body as a whole. As you breathe, notice your wholeness, the oneness of your body and mind. Allow yourself to feel a sense of completeness or oneness.

This can be viewed as using your strength of perspective, stepping back to see the wider view of your body and mind and your place in this present moment. This allows you to see and breathe with the bigger picture. When you’re ready, open your eyes and be in the present moment.

Bob Bertsch: Thanks for that practice, Jessica. It was really great.

Jessica Beckendorf: You are very welcome. I enjoyed it myself.

Bob Bertsch: That’s it for this episode. Thanks for joining us. If you enjoyed this episode, click the Share button in your podcast app and share it with a friend. We’ll be back next week with an episode on Coming Back Better, one of the eight ways of cultivating community resilience that we identified in our Connecting Communities and Asset-Based Community Recovery Project. Until then, keep practicing.


Kalin Goble: The Practicing Connection Podcast is a production of OneOp and is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, U.S. Department of Defense, under award numbers 2019-48770-30366 and 2023-48770-41333.


[00:13:57] [END OF AUDIO]


May 30
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