by Ryan M. Niemiec

Mindfulness scientists offer a two-part definition of mindfulness: It involves a) the self-regulation of attention with b) an attitude of curiosity, openness, and acceptance. But that’s easier said than done. It’s not hard to spend 30 seconds paying attention, for example, to your hand—the color of the skin, the lines on the palm—but it’s a lot more challenging to be mindful in the midst of pain and suffering, says WBI faculty member Ryan Niemiec. In an article for, Ryan, who is the education director for the VIA Institute on Character, explores the idea that there’s an easy way and a hard way to practice mindfulness, and offers five tips for making mindfulness work for you. Here’s a wrap-up.

1. Start simple. Ryan suggests building your mindfulness “muscle” by paying attention to everyday experiences and sensations—such as how your food tastes, the temperature within and around you, and the way your body feels in any given moment.

2. Create a meditation “habit” that’s realistic. Instead of trying to fit in an hour a day of meditation, carve out time in your regular routine to sit for just five minutes. Research reveals that meditating even for short times can catalyze beneficial changes in the brain.

3. Choose a mindfulness practice that will motivate you to actually do it. Traditional sitting meditation isn’t required—you might want to take a mindful walk or even eat a mindful snack. Ryan meditated by watching his son play in the sandbox!

4. Practice self-compassion. When you’re inconsistent with your practice, or your mind wanders, forgive yourself, and focus instead on what you did do.

5. Use your strengths. You can overcome obstacles to your mindfulness practice by activating your character strengths. For example, use your curiosity to help you focus on what’s happening in your mind.

For a deeper exploration of these ideas and the five tips, read Ryan’s article.

Find out more about the new WBI course Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP) in Coaching, with Ryan Niemiec.

Click here to download and print a copy of the 5-Tips-for-Practicing-Mindfulness.

Dr. Ryan M. Niemiec, Education Director for the VIA Institute on Character, develops VIA’s courses, reports, and programs, and helps professionals around the world apply character strengths personally and professionally. He is the author of Mindfulness and Character Strengths: A Practical Guide to Flourishing (with 10-track CD) and co-author of Positive Psychology at the Movies and Movies and Mental Illness. Ryan is a licensed psychologist, certified health coach, international workshop leader, and faculty member for Xavier University in Cincinnati, the University of Pennsylvania, and IE University in Madrid. Ryan is the creator of Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP), the first structured program for building character strengths, and adapted MBSP for a track on the web/app-based platform Happify, called “Awaken Your Potential.”