Leisure and Meaning-Making: The Pursuit of a Meaningful Life through Leisure

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Dachgeschoss (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Yoshitaka IWASAKI, University of Alberta, Canada
Humans seek the pursuit of a meaningful, enriching life.1-5 Meaning-making refers to a process by which a person derives meaning(s) from an activity6 where leisure provides opportunities for meaning-making,7-9 for example, through creative leisure10 and spiritual leisure.11 My paper will present a current understanding of the ways in which leisure promotes meaning-making that has implications for the field of leisure studies both conceptually and practically.

A recent literature review12 based on 363 research articles linking leisure13-18 and subjective wellbeing (SWB) identified meaning-making as a core mechanism to promote SWB. Meaning-making through leisure represents a freeing source for experiencing “infinite, liberating effects of leisure,”19 while artists showed experiential (e.g., expressive) and existential (e.g., meaning, vitality, identity, & achievement) meaning construction of flow.20 An integrative review of the literature highlighted culturally contextualized processes of meaning-making through leisure that involve both “remedying the bad” and “enhancing the good” in people’s quest for a meaningful life.7 Broadly, the role of leisure in meaning-making is line with an increasing emphasis on “positiveness” in the social sciences.21,22

Importantly, the role of leisure in meaning-making has practical implications. Creating a life of meaning was identified as a primary role of therapeutic recreation in supporting clients with challenges/limitations.23 Living a life of meaning was a key theme found in research on leisure and successful aging24 and on posttraumatic growth for people with spinal cord injury.25 Not only was the role of leisure in meaning-making identified among elders with dementia through enhancing enjoyment, identity, and autonomy,26 but such role was also shown among immigrants through promoting self-realisation, self-expression, and connectedness.27,28 A recent study with adults with mental illness found “an inspiration for an engaged life” as an overarching leisure meaning-making theme.30 Such leisure-generated meanings appear particularly salient to marginalized populations, including persons with disabilities and ethnic minorities globally.11,29