We have seeds of character strengths within us. At least 24 of them. Some of these seeds have blossomed and are blooming fruit and beautiful flowers. Others lie dormant awaiting us to touch them with mindfulness.
Mindfulness and Thich Nhat Hanh’s “five mindfulness trainings” offer us an opportunity to cultivate these character strength “seeds” within us.
Keep in mind:
- These are mindfulness trainings not mindfulness commandments. The idea is to move toward the training and to practice the training as an ongoing process, not something to be perfectly achieved.
- The practice of the mindfulness trainings is for everyone to enjoy.
- For a full description of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, click here.
This blog entry focuses on the fifth mindfulness training, called Nourishment and Healing. It begins:
- Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking and consuming (Nhat Hanh & Cheung, 2010, p. 212).
- This training invites us to take care of our whole self and become a mindful consumer. Consuming refers to not only the food and drink we put in our body but also the consumption of websites, movies, television programs, video games, books, magazines, and conversations. Core to this training are the strengths of self-regulation and prudence. And, embedded in mindful consuming is the strength of perseverance because the practice of not consuming intoxicants or certain media images/messages is not just something to be done once or twice but is an ongoing practice requiring perseverance.
How might you use character strengths to practice this training?
- Self-monitor your daily healthy and unhealthy eating and drinking habits. Create a detailed food and drink log. This self-regulation strategy is a key health habit. Interestingly, research has found that the improvement of one behavior involving self-regulation automatically improves other behaviors involving this strength. For example, improving one’s self-regulation with food improves one’s self-regulation in other areas, such as exercise, mindfulness, or even managing finances.
- Track the non-edible products that your consciousness consumes. Set your watch alarm to beep one time per hour; when it beeps, take notice of what your consciousness is taking in – a television commercial, a radio program, a website, a video game, a personal conversation, a book, etc. Ask yourself: Is this product or experience right now having a positive or negative effect on my consciousness? What feelings and thoughts am I experiencing in the present moment in light of this current stimulus?
- Set a health goal that is of personal value to you. Make the goal something reasonable that you can commit to 100%, even when the going gets tough. The character strengths most associated with goal-setting are hope, perseverance, and prudence. Be prudent to select a goal that is reasonable, be perseverant when the going gets tough, and generate hopeful thoughts about your ability to achieve the goal and to develop alternate pathways to get there, if necessary.
- For the full text of Ryan’s article called “Mindful Living” published in the International Journal of Well-Being, click here
- To learn more about mindfulness and Thich Nhat Hanh, click here
- For images of Thich Nhat Hanh from Touching Peace Photography, taken by mindfulness practitioner, Paul Davis, click here
- To measure your character strengths and discover your signature strengths, click here
- To apply character strengths in your practice and life, click here
- Nhat Hanh, T. (1993). For a future to be possible: Commentaries on the five mindfulness trainings. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
- Nhat Hanh, T. (2009). Happiness. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
- Nhat Hanh, T., & Cheung, L. (2010). Savor: Mindful eating, mindful life. New York: HarperCollins.
- Niemiec, R. M. (2012). Mindful living: Character strengths interventions as pathways for the five mindfulness trainings. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2(1), 22–33.
- Niemiec, R. M., & Wedding, D. (2008). Positive psychology at the movies: Using films to build virtues and character strengths. Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe.
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.