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Moving from “Me” to “We”: The Power of Connection in the Search for Happiness.

Christy Teranishi Martinez, Ph.D. California State University Channel Islands

Corresponding author:Dr. Christy Teranishi Martinez, Psychology Program, California State University Channel Islands, 1 University Drive, Camarillo, CA 93012. Email: christy.teranishi-martinez@csuci.edu.

The pursuit of goals is correlated with greater well-being (Brunstein, 1993; Kiaei & Reio, 2014; Klug & Maier, 2015). According to Seligman (2011), well-being is comprised positive emotions, flow (being completely absorbed in a challenging yet enjoyable activity), relationships, spirituality, and achievement. While accomplishing life’s goals is important for flourishing, well-being may vary depending on whether the type of goal is altruistic or individualistic. Altruistic Goals include intrinsic goals (e.g., self-acceptance, affiliation)and self-transcendent goals(e.g., spirituality). Individualistic Goals include physical goals (e.g. appearance, hedonism) and extrinsic goals (e.g., educational, career, financial success).

In this 6-week longitudinal mixed method study, participants were asked to carry out a goal aimed at enhancing their happiness and well-being. Forty-one participants (27 females, 14 males, Mage= 28.71,SDage= 10.71) wrote in daily journals and completed an online pre- and post-survey online using Qualtrics (Profile of Mood States, 1992; Flow State Scale, 1996; Social Provisions Scale, 1987; Spirituality Involvement and Beliefs Scale-R, 2006, Subjective Happiness Scale, 1999).

At the end of the 6-week study, those who carried out altruistic goals(N= 13) reported experiencing flow more often (M = 10 times in the past week) than those who pursued individualistic goals (N = 28; M = 2.46 times; t(39) = –2.12, p =.04). Those who carried out altruistic goals also reported more improved relationships (M = 2.92) than those who pursued individualistic goals (M = 2.11; t (38) = – 3.44, p =.002).

Multiple regression analysis was conducted to examine the extent to which positive emotions, flow, relationships, spirituality, and achievement predicted well-being. After the 6-week project, increased positive emotions and improved relationships contributed to greater well-being(R =.75; R2= .57;F(2, 38) = 24.99,p= .000).

Qualitative analyses were conducted on open-ended data provided on the surveys and from journal reflections in order to enhance my understanding and interpretations of the quantitative data analyses. A phenomenological approach was used to examine themes that emerged, and grounded theory was used to construct a representative theoretical model of the participants’ experiences (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).

Seventy-eight percent of the participants reported that their project enhanced their relationships because they were more focused, motivated, and in the present moment. Here are a few examples of how participants described their happiness project enhanced their relationships:

My goal helped me feel a little more confident and stronger, mentally and physically. In turn, this helped me be more available to those around me because they were able to be around someone who was feeling happy and energized. I feel like in some way I was able to motivate others because I felt motivated.

The way it affected my interaction with others was positively. I felt more relaxed, excited, optimistic, and just really good about myself. I was way more friendly than I would have been to friends and family members had I not gone to the gym.

Thirty-five percent reported that their happiness project enhanced their relationships by increasing their energy and positive mood. They said it allowed them to have more time for themselves and others, and more shared activities and interests:

I noticed that once I was able to take time for myself, that I was able to have a more relaxed, positive attitude towards everyone.

With coworkers, I was more active and carried out more duties.

I have much more energy to do things with friends and family I didn’t have before.

I went to bed earlier, which made my spouse happy. I realized I slept better so, in turn, had more energy.

Eighteen percent said that their project enhanced their relationships by increasing their communication skills, openness, and honesty.

I became more honest, open, transparent and vulnerable. For the first time in my life I was open with my boss and shared how I really felt and shared my future goals. I have never shared that type of information with anyone. This openness and honesty I found translated to my other relationships and I became a more open person.

I feel that working on levels of communication with my boyfriend truly helped us in times of conflict. It brought attention to flaws in my own levels of communication, which was humbling.

Ten percent reported that their project increased their negative mood or had a negative impact on others.

I noticed that I tended to be more short-tempered with my boyfriend, and that I became more distant to my coworkers because I was feeling overwhelmed with accomplishing my goal.

Since I dedicated more time towards my studies, various relationships were not maintained as they were beforehand. It resulted in spending less time with friends, romantic partner, and family. Although they all understood, some relationships were affected more than others.

Sixty-three percent indicated that their project was life-changing. When asked to reflect upon how their project affected them spirituality, participants reported enhanced self-actualization (e.g., finding purpose through goals), self and identity (e.g., sense of self, increased confidence), and health and well-being (e.g., awareness of stressors, increased coping skills).

Self-Actualization

I continue to work on my goal, and though there have been times I stray, working out has helped me see a different side of myself that is more capable.

It was life changing in a way where I feel more aware of my surroundings, and I do feel a sense of clarity and better focus.

Self and Identity

It reaffirmed for me when I’m engaged in positive activities, I feel better about myself and engage better with others.

It was life changing in that I realized I have more self-control than I ever thought. I am proud of myself that I value myself enough to do this for myself.

Health and Well-Being

I can find peace within myself and whenever I feel stressed or mentally trapped, I can just sweat it out.

I think it was life changing. I will try to set time aside as my days get busier and more hectic, I will need more “me” time so I am not stressing or taking my stress out on others.

I felt that it was life changing because now I have another technique that I can use to relax during stressful periods of my life.

Conclusion

At the end of the 6-week happiness journey, all of the participants reportedincreased positive emotions, and their improved relationships contributed to greater well-being. The project enhanced their spirituality by contributing to their self-actualization, self and identity, health and well-being. Over 60% of the participants reported their happiness project was life changing. Although overall happiness did not change, being positive and engaging in altruistic goals contributed to enhanced optimal well-being by improving relationships and developing a more meaningful purpose in life.

References

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Klug, H. J. P., & Maier, G. W. (2015). Linking goal progress and subjective well-being: A meta-      analysis. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16(1), 37-65. doi: 10.1007/s10902-013-9493-0

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Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish : a visionary new understanding of happiness and well-           being. New York: Free Press.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for      developing grounded theory(2nded.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.