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A Conceptual Model of Leisure and Spiritual Well-Being

Paul Heintzman

Abstract


The author proposes a conceptual model of the relationship between leisure and spiritual well-being based on current theoretical speculation and empirical study. The development of a model that relates leisure and spiritual well-being is important as spiritual wellness may be viewed as a benefit of leisure. It is possible that recreation and park practitioners in the areas of therapeutic recreation, camping, public land management, outdoor/experiential/adventure/environmental education, tourism, and community recreation could contribute to the spiritual wellness of recreators if they had a better understanding of the relationships between leisure and spirituality.

The proposed model of leisure and spiritual well-being is based on the assumption that leisure experiences may either consciously or unconsciously provide opportunities for “grounding” or “working through” spiritual difficulties as well as “sensitizing” one to the spiritual. Leisure experiences, which involve an interplay of time, activity, motivation and setting, can provide contexts in which the spiritual is explored rather than repressed, and where spiritual preoccupation due to a spiritual emergency can be addressed, while a leisure style provides repeated opportunities to translate leisure experiences of a spiritual nature into spiritual development. In addition to the techniques of “grounding,” “working through” and “sensitizing,” the model of leisure and spiritual well-being incorporates a number of theories that suggest processes that may link leisure and spiritual well-being. Leisure and well-being theories (personal growth, “keeping idle hands busy,” buffer and coping, identity affirmation) offer suggestions of how leisure may influence spiritual development. Restorative environments theory is helpful in explaining how specific activities and settings may move a person toward spiritual well-being. The proposed model suggests that leisure may play both a positive and a negative role in spiritual well-being and development.

This model provides a conceptual framework for future research and theory development as well as for recreation practice. Practical implications include the importance of recognizing: the complexity of leisure and spiritual well-being relationships; individual differences in spiritual wellbeing; the role of all the dimensions of leisure style (activity, motivation, setting, time) in enhancing spiritual well-being; the variety of ways that leisure may enhance spiritual well-being; the effect of different leisure experiences on different characteristics of spiritual well-being; how consistent patterns of leisure experiences, or leisure style, may have a greater influence on spiritual development than an individual leisure experience; and that some of the ways that leisure may enhance spiritual well-being are also associated with other dimensions of well-being.


Keywords


leisure, recreation, spiritual well-being, spiritual health, spiritual wellness, spirituality, leisure and spiritual well-being model.

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