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I am pleased to have been able to attend and represent PPRC at the ECPP 2014 conference, which was held in Amsterdam from July 1-4. Below is the abstract from the symposium that myself, Ryan Niemiec from the VIA Institute on Character, and Tayyab Rashid from the University of Toronto Scarborough presented together. I was also fortunate enough to have attended an all day workshop held by Ryan Niemiec on Mindfulness and to connect with many colleagues from around the world. Please view my slides: ECPP 2014 Presentation

Symposium Title:

Character Strengths and Mindfulness: Pathways to Increase Well-Being

Abstract:

This symposium looks at the relevance of positive psychology in enhancing well-being and addressing ill-being. The presenters will discuss the role of character strengths and the potential benefits to well-being and life satisfaction that result from applying character strengths-based interventions in schools among adolescents. The role of character strengths in the amelioration of symptoms of psychological disorder and the benefits of amplifying character strengths, cultivating positive emotions, and fostering positive relationships facilitates clients moving towards meaning and intrinsically motivated goals. These findings will be linked to mindfulness practice and ways in which the practice of mindfulness enhances the use of character strengths and how working with character strengths benefits the practice of mindfulness will be discussed. Preliminary research will be presented on a mindfulness-based strengths program and the potential benefits to well-being achieved through its application. Overall, this symposium aims to demonstrate how character strengths and mindfulness create pathways to reducing risk and enhancing well-being throughout life.

Individual Presentation Abstracts:

Name: Carmel Proctor, PhD

Title:

The Impact of a Character Strengths-Based Intervention on the Life Satisfaction and Well-Being of Adolescents

Abstract:

Schools are the ideal place for positive psychology initiatives aimed at increasing the well-being and happiness of children. This study examined the impact of a character strengths-based positive psychological intervention program called Strengths Gym, on adolescent life satisfaction. Strengths Gym is a manualized program administered by teachers in classroom time. The program involves student completion of age appropriate character strengths-based exercises for each of the 24 VIA strengths through in-class activities, philosophical discussions, stories, and real-world homework activities. The study compared student outcomes for life satisfaction, positive and negative affect, and self-esteem for 319 adolescent students aged 12-14: 218 adolescents who participated in character strengths-based exercises in the school curriculum, and 101 adolescents who did not participate character strengths-based exercises in the school curriculum. Results revealed that adolescents who participated in character strengths-based exercises experienced significantly increased life satisfaction compared to adolescents who did not participate in character strengths-based exercises. The findings provide encouraging support for the application of character strengths-based interventions in school as a means of increasing the life satisfaction and well-being among youths. The presenter will discuss the importance of maintaining life satisfaction levels among this population and the challenges/considerations of implementing positive psychology interventions in schools.

Name: Ryan M. Niemiec, PsyD

Title:

Positive Psychology at Its Best: Integrating the Research and Practice of Character Strengths and Mindfulness

Abstract:

Following a brief overview of the mindfulness practice literature and the character strengths literature, the presenter will review what is known about the integration of these popular areas in positive psychology. Key concepts around this meaningful connection will be discussed, including ways in which the practice of mindfulness enhances the use of character strengths and how working with character strengths benefits the practice of mindfulness. This will culminate into a discussion of a new, manualized, 8-week intervention program called Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP). Preliminary, cross-cultural pilot research on MBSP is promising in terms of boosting well-being, purpose, positive relationships, and managing problems. This research will be reviewed, as well as directions for future research surrounding this integration, especially for researchers interesting in studying MBSP.

Name: Tayyab Rashid, PhD

Title:

Integrating Symptoms and Strengths to Treat Psychological Distress in Clinical Settings

Abstract:

Based on the premise that strengths can effectively ameliorate symptoms, this presentation through brief clinical vignettes will discuss ways strengths can be integrated with symptoms, vulnerabilities with values, and risks with resources to discern and treat psychological distress in balanced and holistic manner.  The presentation will also briefly describe results of a randomized study with clients experiencing symptoms of borderline personality disorder.  The study, without dismissing, minimizing or avoiding negative attributes, systematically amplifies character strengths, cultivates positive emotions, fosters positive relationships and encourages clients to strive towards meaning and intrinsically motivated goals.

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