Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Role of Leisure in Meaning-Making for Community-Dwelling Adults with Mental Illness: Inspiration for Engaged Life

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Role of Leisure in Meaning-Making for Community-Dwelling Adults with Mental Illness: Inspiration for Engaged Life

Article excerpt

The pursuit of a meaningful, enriching life is a central agenda for humans (Baumeister & Vohs, 2002; Frankl, 1985) and is essential for happiness and subjective well-being (Hicks & Routledge, 2013; Raskin, Bridges, & Neimeyer, 2010; Wong, 2012). Meaning-making refers to a process by which a person derives meaning(s) from an activity (Morgan & Farsides, 2009). Among many activities, leisure is considered a key domain of life that can help people gain valued meanings of life (Iwasaki, 2008; Kleiber, Hutchinson, & Williams, 2002). Research has shown that various forms and contexts of leisure can promote meaning-making in a number of different ways (e.g., psychologically, spiritually, socially, culturally) (Chick, 2009; Trussell & Shaw, 2009; Watkins & Bond, 2007). Such leisure-generated unique experiences and meanings appear particularly salient to marginalized population groups, including persons with disabilities, because they are often provided with limited opportunities for active and meaningful gagements educational, occupational, community) due to social exclusion, discrimination and oppression, negative stigma, and access issues (Fullagar, 2008; Lloyd, King, & McCarthy, 2007). Potentially, leisure may play a key role in the process of meaning-making among people with mental illness (Craik & Pieris, 2006; Davidson, Borg, & Mann, 2005; McCormick, Funderburk, Lee, & Hale-Fought, 2005; Nimrod, Kleiber, & Berdychevsky, 2012).

A meaning-oriented approach to leisure research has a long history (e.g., Freysinger, 1995; Henderson, 1990; Kelly & Kelly, 1994; Shaw, 1985). However, meaning-making through leisure is a unique, distinct concept, compared to the meaning of leisure per se. The former refers to how or in what ways leisure contributes to making one's life more meaningful or how people find meanings within life through leisure pursuits. On the contrary, the latter deals with what and how people define or perceive the meaning of leisure to be. For example, Schulz and Watkins (2007) developed the Leisure Meanings Inventory to measure the meaning of leisure (the latter concept), a multi-dimensional scale for measuring four qualitatively different ways of experiencing the meaning of leisure: passing time, exercising choice, escaping pressure, and achieving fulfillment. In contrast, Porter, Iwasaki, and Shank's (2011) comprehensive literature review identified several overarching leisure-generated meaning-making themes (the former concept) such as connection/belonging, identity, and freedom/autonomy. Also, researchers such as Shaw and Henderson (2005) and Iwasaki described how leisure provides spaces for meaning-making from gendered as well as cross-cultural perspectives, respectively. Specifically, Iwasaki's integrative review of the literature highlighted the processes of meaning-making through leisure engagements, contextualized within a specific culture, that involve both remedying the bad and enhancing the good, in people's quest for a meaningful life. The present paper focuses on meaning-making through leisure (i.e., the role of leisure in making one's life more meaningful).

The purpose of this study was to explore the role of leisure in meaning-making among people with mental illness, by appreciating their voices and lived experiences. The rationale for this exploration is based on the notion that there is significant stigma associated with mental illness (Phelan & Link, 2011) and that the process of recovery in mental illness depends on personal strengths and environmental resources that support living life fully despite illness (Whitley & Drake, 2010). In addition, understanding meaning-making through leisure is important for practitioners to gain knowledge about their role in partnering with individuals who live with mental illness to maximize opportunities for more positive, constructive, and meaningful activities. This is especially important because of the preponderance of social isolation and sedentary lifestyles of individuals with mental illness (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, 2013). …

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