Wonderful life: The power of sharing and reflecting on meaningful moments

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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Abstract

What if there is an afterlife. There, all your memories will be erased, except for one. Which memory do you choose to take with you to eternity?
This thesis investigates the emergence of meaning and the way a sense of meaning in life may be enhanced. It explores meaning through the personal, lived experience of meaningful moments and is based on the memories of more than one hundred people, varying in age, profession and background, chosen in answer to the question above. The study investigates the way these moments work and the way recollecting and sharing these moments may strengthen a sense of meaning in life. A narrative approach was chosen throughout this thesis. Narrative psychology accepts that people make sense of events and give meaning to life through the stories they exchange. Taking a narrative approach means employing this meaning-constructing quality of narratives to investigate the emergence of meaning.
The results of this thesis are brought together in four key findings. In sum, the thesis gives insight in (1) different categories of meaningful moments, in (2) the mechanisms of the mindset of wonder as a crucial aspect of the meaning orientation towards life, in (3) meaning as a personal process of discovery and creation, and in (4) meaning as an interactive process of meeting through sharing meaningful moments. Meaning being fundamental to our health and wellbeing, these findings may contribute to building this fundament and enhancing a sense of meaning in life. The thesis pleads for a shift in thinking and acting towards a mindset of wonder: an open mindset, in which we see ourselves not as solitary beings, but as part of a larger whole. It is this mindset that enables the discovery meaning in all kinds of situations, as well as the creation of meaning that serves this larger whole and thereby, ourselves. For meaning is more than a mental healthcare issue, but is to be part of the fabric of everyday life.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Westerhof, Gerben J., Supervisor
  • Sools, Anneke A.M., Co-Supervisor
Award date26 Feb 2021
Place of PublicationEnschede
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-90-365-5127-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2021

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