Voluntary Simplicity as a Value Orientation in the Lifestyle, Leisure, Well-being Relationship
Range, Bernhard H.
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Leisure typically has been regarded as a positive component in people's lives, and evidence points to its central rather than peripheral role in lifestyle. Further, studies of leisure suggest it is conducive to psychological well-being, to physical health, and to the stability of social groups. The extent to which people are able to reach this potential very much depends on leisure's role in lifestyle, the experience of leisure, and whether conditions in a consumption-oriented society facilitate such positive outcomes. For many, leisure in consumption-oriented lifestyles holds symbolic meaning. Important aspects of personal identity and meaning are found in leisure-related possessions and through leisure activities pursued. For others, leisure represents an internal, inner-directed process through which activities or behaviours are intrinsically motivated, freely chosen, and ultimately satisfying. In this study, lifestyle was conceptualized and operationalized using a 'voluntary simplicity' value orientation, focussing on four main value dimensions: (1) material simplicity, (2) self-determination, (3) ecological awareness, and (4) personal growth. The purpose of the study was to examine the role that lifestyle plays in the relationship between leisure and psychological well-being. A self-administered questionnaire was completed by adults enrolled in general interest and continuing education leisure courses. Five basic concepts were assessed in the questionnaire: (1) leisure participation, (2) importance of leisure activity to lifestyle, (3) leisure experience, (4) psychological well-being, and (5) lifestyle. The highest frequencies of leisure participation per month included reading books, magazines and newspapers, listening to music, and watching television and videos. Leisure experience was characterized by higher challenge and awareness, and lower boredom and anxiety. There was general support for voluntary simplicity values in lifestyle with personal growth, self-determination, and ecological awareness dimensions being higher and material simplicity values being the lowest. Lifestyles that more strongly embraced voluntary simplicity were associated with higher levels of challenge and awareness, and lower levels of anxiety and boredom in the experience of leisure. The self-determination, ecological awareness, and personal growth dimensions of a voluntary simplicity lifestyle contributed to heightened positive affect within psychological well-being, while lower levels of material simplicity increased negative affect (decreased psychological well-being). When all factors are taken together, a significant proportion of variance in psychological well-being is explained by the <I><b>experience</b></I> of leisure, especially <I><b>high challenge</b></I>, and <b><I>not</b></I> by <I><b>leisure participation</b></I>, and by a <I><b>voluntary simplicity lifestyle</b></I> characterized by self-determination, ecological awareness and personal growth values in the <I><b>positive affect</b></I> dimension, and material simplicity values in the <I><b>negative affect</b></I> dimension of psychological well-being. These results suggest that regardless of the type and intensity of leisure involvement, if through heightened awareness, higher challenge and lower anxiety are sought in leisure, especially as expressed within a voluntary simplicity lifestyle, then higher levels of psychological well-being may be achieved. Indeed, by reducing lifestyle complexity and lessening the focus on consumerism, the inherent value of leisure to well-being might well emerge to a greater degree.