Applied Research in Quality of Life

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 575–590

Rediscovering the Positive Psychology of Sport Participation: Happiness in a Ski Resort Context

Authors

  • Hyun-Woo Lee
    • Department of Sport ManagementFlorida State University
  • Sunyun Shin
    • Department of Sports and Leisure StudiesYonsei University
  • Kyle S. Bunds
    • Department of Sport ManagementFlorida State University
  • Minjung Kim
    • Department of Sport ManagementFlorida State University
    • Department of Sports and Leisure StudiesYonsei University
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11482-013-9255-5

Cite this article as:
Lee, H., Shin, S., Bunds, K.S. et al. Applied Research Quality Life (2014) 9: 575. doi:10.1007/s11482-013-9255-5

Abstract

Interrelated functions of the three orientations to happiness were examined by a cross-sectional survey, in the context of a ski resort experience. Accordingly, a conceptual framework of pleasure, flow, and involvement influencing satisfaction was established. Utilizing structural equation modeling, the conceptual framework was tested by analyzing data collected from 279 participants who enjoyed skiing and/or snowboarding. Results from bootstrap test indicated that direct and total effects from flow had the highest predictive power on satisfaction. In contrast, pleasure showed higher explanatory power on subjective experiences of flow and meaning, and influenced satisfaction only by indirect effects through those elements. Together, these findings support the research model synthesizing the behavioral constructs of sport participation with subjective well-being perspectives. Moreover, the expanded model in a sporting context further evidences the functional roles of the orientations to happiness by results consistent with extant literature of positive psychology. Roles of embodiments of orientations to happiness in an action-based exercise and its implications are further discussed.

Keywords

Sport participationPositive psychologyPleasureFlowInvolvementSatisfaction

Sport participation is an action-based exercise individuals engage in pursuant to a better Quality of Life. Extant literature support positive effects of sport and exercising (e.g., Netz et al. 2005; O’Donovan et al. 2010; Scully et al. 1998; Wipfli et al. 2011). However, in spite of its well-known effects on physical health, efforts have not been sufficient in shedding light on the functional roles of psychological predicates involved in such activity that potentially lead to Quality of Life. Various objective and subjective indicators of Quality of Life (e.g., environmental factors; income; healthy life expectancy; subjective well-being) have expanded the boundaries of assessment toward understanding “the degree to which a person’s life is desirable versus undesirable” (Diener 2006, p. 154). Accordingly, applying the viewpoint of Quality of Life can benefit the study of physical activity including participatory sport. For their well-being, people participate in sports for physical and psychological enjoyment (Kimiecik and Harris 1996; Markland and Hardy 1993). As a form of leisure, participating in sports is a natural form of intervention in life targeted to enhance one’s welfare (Decloe et al. 2009). Investigating the roles of such indicators of Quality of Life in action-based exercises can enrich the understanding of human flourishing and happiness via sport participation.

Despite the many studies of positive interventions in people’s life, however, it is only recently that an integrated point of view providing a common language to all aspects of optimal human functioning has been established. One such approach grounded in a scientific and systematic point of view is that of positive psychology (Linley and Joseph 2004a). Shifting from the conventional concentration on negative and remedial studies of psychology, positive psychology has broadened the scope of dominant psychological research into studies of ordinary human strengths and virtues (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi 2000; Sheldon and King 2001). As a branch of positive human functioning psychology, the goal of positive psychology is to help an individual reach one’s well-being through optimal human functioning, i.e., flourishing (Fredrickson and Losada 2005; Seligman 2011). Theorizing the positive psychological components of optimal human functioning, Seligman (2011) proposed five elements of well-being: positive emotion, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment. Each of the elements were believed to be exclusive factors contributing to well-being (Jayawickreme et al. 2012; Seligman 2011). Supported by a large body of research, interventions utilizing positive psychological approaches have shown evidence of success in bringing life’s joys and human strengths, leading to the well-being of the participants (Dahlsgaard et al. 2005; Jayawickreme et al. 2012; Seligman et al. 2005, 2009; Wood and Tarrier 2010). Nevertheless, efforts to elaborate the function of positive psychology focusing on casual sport participation have been insufficient.

Park-Perin (2010), for example, spotlighted the robust connection between physical activities and positive psychology. In this, Park-Perin explicated how affect, cognition and attention, and behaviors are interrelated in a sporting activity as a positive intervention. Examining through a retrospective evaluation of a sporting activity, the authors of this current study narrowed the scope of this research to the subjective experience about the state of the engagement to sport participation. In particular, the authors argue that elements of subjective well-being (i.e., positive emotion, engagement, meaning; Seligman 2011) are experienced and developed in casual sport participation to meet the ultimate goal of such activity—happiness. Utilizing the lens of positive psychology, we speculate the functional roles of each element in a ski resort context as a means of deconstructing the orientations of happiness and satisfaction in sports participation. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to apply the subjective elements of well-being theory to sport participation, and empirically test the form and function of such orientations of happiness and satisfaction. Hence, supporting evidences of the hypothesized model along with the operationalization process of each orientation into measureable constructs are featured.

To this end, the researchers believe this project can bring to the forefront the positive psychology viewpoint by our identifying previously unnoticed relationships among constructs (e.g., linkage of pleasure, flow, and involvement) in sports participation, not only in the particular context of our research model, but also to extending its applications into various settings; thus, elucidating the virtue of human strengths through sports. Furthermore, this line of research is expected to provide implications to guide applications and interventions to improve the practice of sport in helping individuals, communities, and societies to flourish.

Orientations to Fostering Happiness

Among the elements of well-being, positive emotion, engagement, and meanings—from the earlier conceptualization of positive psychology (Seligman 2002)—have been shown to provide happiness, which can be characterized as one’s satisfaction in life (Seligman 2011). In particular, Peterson et al. (2005) empirically examined how happiness is formulated by these three orientations and made distinctions between the full life (i.e., high fulfillment of the three orientations) and empty life (i.e., low fulfillment of the three orientations). In this, pleasure (representing positive emotion), flow (representing engagement), meanings, and satisfaction were operationalized into psychometric measures and were assessed as orientations of the ‘full life’. Specifically, an orientation to engagement had distinguished features from orientations to pleasure or meaning while an orientation to pleasure had less predictive power compared to others; nonetheless, the three orientations cumulatively contributed to a satisfying life (Peterson et al. 2005). A full life or an empty life could be described by the accumulative score of these three orientations.

As a means to promote optimal human functioning, this study adopts the viewpoint of positive psychology into participation sport and thus selection of the psychological constructs of interest are guided to describe the facilitation of such sporting activity, rather than to prescribe such function (Linley and Joseph 2004a; Seligman 2011). Also, the scope of description is narrowed down to applications of positive psychology for individuals who casually participate in sports; and their subjective experience of happiness as a valued psychological process. Accordingly, constructs of pleasure, flow, involvement, and satisfaction are illuminated as orientations to foster happiness. Consequently, a conceptual model of retrospective state of happiness in participant sport is provided for hypotheses testing (Fig. 1).
https://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1007%2Fs11482-013-9255-5/MediaObjects/11482_2013_9255_Fig1_HTML.gif
Fig. 1

Hypothesized research model of the retrospective state of happiness in participant sport. Definitions in ovals are measurable latent constructs operationalizing the corresponding underlined elements of positive psychology

Positive Emotion and Pleasure

As a positive affect, pleasure can reflect the first element of positive psychology (i.e., positive emotion; Seligman 2011). As pleasant moods and emotions form a part of subjective well-being, pleasure can be a cause or general appraisals about happiness and life satisfaction which are subjective indicators of Quality of Life (Diener 2006; Linley and Joseph 2004a; Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi 2000). In this, emphasis to subjective well-being is grounded from hedonism, established by a line of doctrine articulated by philosophers such as Aristuppus (435–366 BCE) and Epicurus (342–270 BCE), which has led to today’s studies of hedonic psychology in modern academia (Kahneman et al. 2003; Peterson et al. 2005).

Representing the first element of positive psychology, pleasure contributes to well-being, is pursued by people for its own sake, and is measureable as a subjective experience (Seligman 2011). In sports, especially in a casual leisure context, the bodily sensation of participating in a sport can be operationalized as pleasure (Compton and Hoffman 2013). Specifically, positivity of affective balance (i.e., positive affect versus negative affect; Linley and Joseph 2004b) in sport participation can be measured as the pleasure of such activity. Indeed, Brown and Vaughn (2009) posited that adult playfulness aids in emotional, social, and creative development. Further, Allender et al.’s (2006) review of 15 qualitative studies on sport participation found that sport participation did indeed lead to “psychosocial health, functional ability and general quality of life” (p. 826). Moreover, the sensational input of pleasure at each moment of sport participation can coincide with other hierarchical values of the orientations to happiness (Linley and Joseph 2004b; Peterson et al. 2005). For instance, the embodiment of pleasure in sport participation can influence the engagement into such activity.

Engagement and Flow

Engagement, as the second element of happiness, is about flow. Flow is conceptualized as “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at a great cost, for the sake of doing it” (Csikszentmihalyi 1990, p. 4), which is experienced if one loses his/her sense of time and self-consciousness during that absorbing activity (Csikszentmihalyi 1990; Seligman 2011). Seligman asserts that flow requires concentrated attention using up all of the cognitive and emotional resources that formulate thoughts and feelings. Along with pleasure, flow is measured subjectively. However, it should be noted that thought and feeling is minimized during a flow state and that the subjective state of flow can only be traced retrospectively (Seligman 2011). Peterson et al. (2005) highlighted that highly engaging activities of flow indicated the highest predictive power among the three orientations leading to satisfaction.

Csikszentmihalyi (1990) emphasized that the primary function of flow activities, such as in sport participation, is the provision of enjoyable experiences. That is, how sports is constructed can lead to a highly enjoyable ordered state of mind. Studies report that experience of flow can lead to a greater state of psychological satisfaction in a learning environment and also lead to a better performance in a competitive environment (Jackson et al. 1998; Stein et al. 1995). Further, Jackson and Hanin (2000) explicated how positive emotions such as joy and fun can lead to an optimal psychological state of flow. That is, the embodiment of pleasure can contribute to the state of flow. In downhill skiing, for instance, when people’s attention to their arousals of pleasure increases, the harmony in their embodiment of mind and bodily performance in skiing (e.g., challenge-skill balance, merging of action and awareness, clear goals and feedback, concentration on the task, sense of control, loss of self-consciousness, transformation of time, autotelic experience) can lead to a flow state (Csikszentmihalyi 1990; Jackson and Hanin 2000). Even when it is asserted that flow and pleasure may sometimes be incompatible (Peterson et al. 2005; Seligman 2011), it is still likely that the positive experience through the embodiment of mind and bodily performance in recreational sport can be a condition that enhances the chance of experiencing a flow state (Csikszentmihalyi 1990; Jackson and Hanin 2000). The hedonic contents of pleasure and aftermaths of flow are aspects of contemporary experiences, how we feel in body and mind. How improvements in the qualities of these experiences can lead to better meanings of life—psychological well-being—becomes essential to understanding the happiness of sport participation.

Meaning and Involvement

Meaning, as a third element of happiness, is about the intrinsic motivational feature of a human being in belonging to and serving something that one believes is bigger than the self (Seligman 2002, 2011). In particular, what scholars call meaning in positive psychology requires more dispassionate criteria that contributes to well-being. Moreover, meaning can sometimes be distinguished as psychological well-being which is in contrast with the previous elements of subjective well-being (Keyes et al. 2002; Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi 2000). Psychological well-being closely relates to Aristotle’s (384–322 BCE) notion of eudemonia, while subjective well-being is closer to hedonism (see Peterson et al. 2005). Whereas subjective well-being is about the summation of life satisfaction, psychological well-being further exists in the engagements with meaningful connections to external goals, something larger than themselves (Linley and Joseph 2004a; Park et al. 2009). This seeming connection with something larger than one’s self, through a sense of meaning, is a key factor of positive psychology. People with a sense of meaning and purpose of life report greater psychological and even physical health (Park et al. 2009; Peterson et al. 2005). Accordingly, a person’s involvement (personal relevance; Mitchell 1979; Zaichkowsky 1985) with an action-based exercise consists of components mediating to psychological well-being. That is, enhancement of involvement through and of sport participation can be amalgamated with higher satisfaction, enjoyment, happiness, positive affect, and degree of general well-being. Sense of meaning, involvement in an action-based exercise, can be one of the three routes (together with pleasure and flow) contributing to happiness in sport participation (Park et al. 2009; Peterson et al. 2005).

Along with consideration of flow experience leading to better meanings of life, ego involvement becomes an important concept in current study. Based on social judgment theory (Sherif and Cantril 1947), the relationship between ego involvement and behavior was examined in the middle of 20th century. Specifically, for leisure studies, the concept of involvement was adopted in the 1980s for examining the relationships among participants’ leisure choices. Because involvement is typically conceptualized with three components such as enjoyment, fun, and excitement (McQuarrie and Munson 1987), pleasure becomes one of the most important antecedents in leisure involvement studies. In our model, these components reflecting pleasure and the retrospective interpretation of flow experience, as impacted by pleasure, are considered to influence a person’s involvement in a sporting activity. Reiterating, subjective well-being experience mediated by involvement can enhance satisfaction in a causal chain structure.

Satisfaction and Happiness

Experiencing the goodness (happiness, contentment, and effective performance) of sport participation can contribute to optimal human functioning—flourishing—in positive psychology (Fredrickson and Losada 2005). In particular, happiness and life satisfaction as an outcome state of sport participation closely ties into the early conceptualization of positive psychology (i.e., authentic happiness theory; see Seligman 2011) which is comprised by positive emotion, engagement, and meaning. Empirical results from Peterson et al.’s (2005) study showed that pleasure, engagement, and meaning significantly predicted life satisfaction. In their study, these three orientations were reported simultaneously low for low satisfaction individuals (empty life) and mutually influenced high satisfaction (full life). Also, while pleasure was not as strong a predictor compared to engagement and meaning, the effects were significantly compatible to reaching life satisfaction as pleasure along with engagement and meaning represented the value added to a life (Peterson et al. 2005). Accordingly, consistent with this framework, states of pleasure, flow, and involvement can amalgamate to form the outcome happiness of sport participation.

When bodily sensations of pleasure are embedded, flow is activated, and cognitive processes of meaning are experienced in a sport participation activity, the causal chains of the elements are intertwined into the formation of the state satisfaction in such activity. That is, overall satisfaction with an activity is an amalgamation of both subjective and psychological well-being. From a behavioral perspective, satisfaction is defined as “the degree to which the level of fulfillment is pleasant or unpleasant” (Oliver 2010, p. 23). Studies of satisfaction are plentiful in behavioral and consumerism research, including sports. Satisfaction has been shown to be a strong predictor of many behavioral and practical outcomes (Oliver 2010). Most prominently, researchers have found social behaviors lead to satisfaction in life more generally (Pavot and Diener 2008; Porter et al. 1974); in elite sport (Gagne 2003); in spectator sport (Yoshida and James 2010); and in participant sport (e.g. Huang and Humphreys 2012; Varca et al. 1984). Particularly pertinent to the study at hand, Huang and Humphreys (2012) found that satisfaction derived from sport participation behaviors led to well-being in and out of sport participation. Furthermore, as a state satisfaction of sporting activity, the happiness in sport participation can flourish the investigation of the overarching theory of well-being as a means of shedding light to the mechanisms of the formation of retrospective positive emotions, and to foster the feedback loop between subjective and psychological well-being (Fredrickson 2001; Fredrickson and Losada 2005; Linley and Joseph 2004a; Seligman 2011).

Model Development and Hypotheses Generation

According to the theoretical backgrounds of the orientations of happiness and the conceptual framework illustrated in Fig. 1, we have generated testable hypotheses for empirical examination. First, embodiment of pleasure, as a state of positive emotion in sport participation, is hypothesized to effect flow (H1), involvement (H2), and satisfaction (H3). Second, experience of flow, as the absorbing activity of engagement in sport participation, is hypothesized to effect involvement (H4) and satisfaction (H5). Third, involvement, as a state of personal meanings attributed to sport participation, is hypothesized to influence the overall satisfaction of sport participation (H6).

Overall, a model of the retrospective state of happiness in the sport participation model is empirically examined. Focusing on the elements of authentic happiness theory, a cross-sectional survey evidenced the direct and indirect effects among pleasure, flow, involvement, and satisfaction. Each element experienced through sport participation as positive interventions supported the flourishing of optimal human functioning. The following sections report the methodologies, results, and discussion of this aspect of positive psychology in sports.

Method

Participants and Procedures

A field study was conducted for data collection. Participants were visitors of three major ski resorts located in South Korea. The target population (people enjoying skiing/snowboarding) was chosen because it was anticipated that broad spectrums of pleasure, flow, and involvement would be represented across the various sport participants. A non-probability sampling method of judgmental sampling (Babbie 2007) was applied; a face-to-face self-administered mode was utilized by trained interviewers. Out of 300 questionnaires distributed, 284 were collected and 279 were used after data screening (79 women, 200 men, Mage = 22.69 years, SD = 2.88, age range: 18–40 years). Of the sample, 126 (45.2 %) participated in skiing, 112 (40.1 %) participated in snowboarding, and 41 (14.7 %) enjoyed both. While the combined constructs were significantly affected by participation type with the use of Wilks’ criterion (F [8, 546] = 2.41, partial η2 = .03, p = .02), between-subjects effects and post hoc tests showed skiers had higher means on pleasure (F [2, 276] = 5.12, partial η2 = .04, p = .01) and involvement (F [2, 276] = 5.69, partial η2 = .04, p < .01) compared to other participants enjoying snowboarding or both. In this, Box’s M test (p = .20) and Levene’s tests (ps > .29) supported uses of multivariate analyses in this study. Average days spent at the resort was 4.49 days (SD = 11.44), while most of the respondents visited ski resorts less than 5 times a season (90.1 %).

Instrumentation

Scales of pleasure, flow, involvement, and subjective satisfaction with the experience were included in the questionnaire. Measures for pleasure (3 items) and flow (3 items) from Peterson et al. (2005) and Madrigal (2006) were adopted and adjusted to capture the pleasantness and engagement in the sport activity. Three items from Zaichkowsky’s (1985) scale were adjusted to be consistent with the meaning scale by Peterson et al. (2005) and used to measure involvement as a reflection of the subjective meaning and purpose of the activity. The subjective satisfaction of the experience was measured by three items from Oliver’s (2010) satisfaction scales, in a ski resort context, consistent with the operationalization of Peterson et al. (2005). All items were measured on a 5-point Likert-Scale from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree. Content validity of the instruments was evaluated to be representative of the constructs of positive psychology in a participant sporting context by three tenured university professors with expertise in sport management and psychology. That is, the selected items were revised and reworded in the sport participation context based on the suggestions and elaborations made by the experts regarding the content relevance, representativeness, and clarity of items. Items consisting of each psychological construct were assessed to capture the elements of well-being (Seligman 2011) regarding the unidimensional item reflection of psychometric evaluation (Anderson and Gerbing 1988). Accordingly, Cronbach’s alpha for the sample was satisfactory: .81 for pleasure, .76 for engagement, .79 for involvement, and .87 for satisfaction. The items used in this study and its psychometric assessments of validity are reported in Table 1.
Table 1

Factor loadings (λ), reliability coefficients (ρ), and average variance extracted (AVE) values of measures

Factors and items

λ

SE

ρ

AVE

Pleasure

  

.82

.60

1. I go out for skiing to feel euphoric.

.84

.03

  

2. I love skiing/snowboarding as it excites my senses.

.78

.03

  

3. For me, skiing/snowboarding is good as a pleasurable activity.

.69

.04

  

Flow

  

.76

.51

4. I get lost in skiing/snowboarding activities that time passes quickly.

.73

.04

  

5. When skiing/snowboarding, I am in a zone not conscious of myself.

.69

.04

  

6. I am very absorbed in skiing/snowboarding that I lose sense of time.

.72

.04

  

Involvement

  

.80

.57

7. Skiing/snowboarding is very important to my life.

.75

.03

  

8. I spend a lot of time thinking about skiing/snowboarding.

.85

.03

  

9. Skiing/snowboarding has a lasting meaning to me.

.66

.04

  

Satisfaction

  

.87

.69

10. My experience of skiing/snowboarding was fulfilling with fun.

.80

.03

  

11. I am satisfied with my experience of skiing/snowboarding.

.89

.02

  

12. Overall, I am satisfied with my experience at this ski resort.

.80

.03

  

Data Analysis

Foremost, assumption of normality was tested among the Likert-Scale data. Prior to testing the hypotheses, the measurement model of this study was assessed to evaluate the psychometric properties of the scales. Conducting a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), coefficients of reliability and average variance extracted (AVE) values were computed as evidence of convergent validity, and AVE values were compared with the squared correlations among constructs to check discriminant validity (Bagozzi and Yi 1988; Fornell and Larcker 1981). The data fit of the covariance-variance matrixes associated with the measurement model and the measurement errors were evaluated through a multiple fit indices (Hu and Bentler 1999; Kline 2011): Along with the chi-square tests, Comparative Fit Index (CFI; Bentler 1990), Standardized Root Mean Square Residual (SRMR; Bentler 1990), and Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA; Steiger 1990) were used to evaluate the goodness of fit.

The hypothesized relationships among the latent constructs—pleasure, flow, involvement, and subjective satisfaction—were examined by structural equation modeling (SEM). To test the mediation effects, bootstrap tests were utilized due to its robustness to normality and rigorousness (Zhao et al. 2010) compared to the conventional tests (e.g., Sobel’s Z) suggested by Baron and Kenny (1986). Bias-corrected percentile intervals were calculated in the bootstrap results (Bollen and Stine 1992; Stine 1989). All analyses were conducted by Mplus 6.0 (Muthén and Muthén 2010) at an alpha level of .05.

Results

Maximum likelihood estimation was deemed to be usable as data were fairly normally distributed, following the recommendations by Finney and DiStefano (2006): skewness and kurtosis of items were lower than 2 (see Table 2). The measurement model indicated a good fit of the data (χ2 = 101.27, df = 48, CFI = .964, SRMR = .045, RMSEA = .063). Convergent validity was supported as AVE values were above .50 (ranging from .51 for flow to .69 for satisfaction) while all factor loadings were significant (p < .001). Scales demonstrated internal consistency as construct reliability ranged from .76 for flow to .87 for satisfaction. Discriminant validity was supported as all AVE values were larger than the squared correlations among constructs. Thus, the psychometric properties of measures were appropriate for further hypotheses testing (see Table 1). Factor correlations among the latent variables are reported in Table 3.
Table 2

Correlations among items and summary statistics

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

1: Pleasure1

1

           

2: Pleasure2

.67

1

          

3: Pleasure3

.57

.53

1

         

4: Flow1

.39

.37

.41

1

        

5: Flow2

.32

.27

.25

.49

1

       

6: Flow3

.31

.28

.27

.51

.53

1

      

7: Involvement1

.33

.26

.36

.31

.25

.30

1

     

8: Involvement2

.36

.30

.33

.44

.29

.36

.65

1

    

9: Involvement3

.30

.31

.34

.34

.26

.33

.47

.55

1

   

10: Satisfaction1

.30

.31

.32

.51

.49

.47

.38

.42

.40

1

  

11: Satisfaction2

.27

.25

.25

.34

.39

.37

.39

.39

.35

.70

1

 

12: Satisfaction3

.28

.30

.29

.29

.35

.34

.25

.29

.26

.61

.74

1

Mean

3.68

3.71

3.35

4.23

4.05

4.03

3.37

3.67

3.80

4.18

4.04

3.90

SD

.91

.91

.97

.86

.88

.92

.95

.91

.86

.77

.77

.77

Skewness

−.36

−.49

−.10

−1.10

−.93

−.85

.10

−.26

−.45

−.94

−.64

−.26

Kurtosis

−.11

.16

−.42

1.01

.83

.64

−.25

−.33

.13

1.21

.58

−.37

Table 3

Factor correlations (ϕ)

 

1

2

3

4

1. Pleasure

1

   

2. Flow

.58

1

  

3. Involvement

.52

.60

1

 

4. Satisfaction

.42

.65

.54

1

The hypothesized model fit the data well as an equivalent model of the measurement model. Pleasure significantly influenced flow (γ = .58, SE = .06, p < .001) and both pleasure (γ = .27, SE = .08, p < .01) and flow (γ = .44, SE = .08, p < .001) significantly influenced involvement. Thus, hypotheses 1, 2 and 4 are supported. Involvement (γ = .24, SE = .08, p < .01) and flow (γ = .50, SE = .09, p < .001) significantly influenced satisfaction, whereas the direct path from pleasure was not significant (γ = .003, SE = .08, p = .98). Hence, hypotheses 5 and 6 were supported, while hypothesis 3 was rejected. Mediation effects were supported as all indirect effects were significant. Effect from pleasure to satisfaction was fully mediated as indirect effects constituted 99.3 % of the total effect and direct effect was nonsignificant. In this, the mediation effect of flow showed the highest explanatory power (i.e., 68.8 % of the total effect). The indirect effect mediated by involvement constituted 17.7 % of the total effect in the paths from flow to satisfaction (γ = .11, SE = .04, p < .01), as a partial mediation. That is, direct effect of flow had a higher explanatory power than the indirect effect. Total effect from flow to satisfaction was bigger than the total effects from pleasure to involvement and satisfaction. Detailed results of the SEM and bias-corrected percentile intervals of bootstrapping test are reported in Table 4.
Table 4

Results of path coefficients and bootstrap tests

Path

Standardized

Unstandardized

BC Interval

Direct effects

 Pleasure → Flow

 Pleasure → Involvement

.575***

.269**

.469

.249

(.328, .623)

(.102, .387)

 Flow → Involvement

.441***

.499

(.300, .724)

 Pleasure → Satisfaction

.003

.002

(−.122, 135)

 Flow → Satisfaction

.498***

.492

(.255, .720)

 Involvement → Satisfaction

.244**

.212

(.066, .344)

Indirect effects

 Pleasure → Flow → Involvement

 Pleasure → Flow → Satisfaction

 Pleasure → Involvement → Satisfaction

 Pleasure → Flow → Involvement → Satisfaction

.253***

.286***

.065*

.062*

.234

.231

.053

.050

(.145, .364)

(.126, .378)

(.015, .115)

(.020, .102)

 Flow → Involvement → Satisfaction

.107*

.106

(.042, .194)

Total effects

 Pleasure → Involvement

.522***

.483

(.412, .632)

 Pleasure → Satisfaction

.416***

.336

(.294, .538)

 Flow → Satisfaction

.606***

.598

(.444, .768)

Reported BC intervals are the bias corrected 95 % confidence interval of estimates resulting from bootstrap analysis

*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001

Discussion

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.

- Dalai Lama XIV

Rules for Happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.

- Immanuel Kant (1724–1804)

The ultimate goal of positive psychology is to “learn how to build the qualities that help individuals and communities not just endure and survive but also flourish” (Seligman 2002, p. 8). Based on Seligman’s (2002) statement, Mutrie and Faulkner (2004) insisted that one of the ways to help both individuals and communities flourish could be participating in physical activities. Especially on an individual level, participants in various physical activities could prevent mental illness, foster positive demotions, and buffer people against the stresses of life (Fox et al. 2000). For people who are suffering from mental illness, Seligman (2002) described human behavior of building physical strength as a “somatopsychic” principle, which was “a healthy mind in a sound body”. In summation, there is no doubt that physical activity can be one of the possible ways to foster positive emotions and help people alleviate suffering by building character.

As also indicated by Huang and Humphreys (2012), participating in sport can have positive life outcomes. In this current research endeavor, the respondents indicated that participation in sport indeed provided them with pleasure, leading ultimately to a feeling of satisfaction. From this, the authors agree with Compton and Hoffman’s (2013) indication that adult playfulness can have very serious effects on happiness. Those participating in skiing activities and socially convening around a sporting activity were shown to have positive psychological outcomes—what can be attributed to overall human well-being (Seligman 2011).

Results of SEM indicated the accumulation of satisfaction by orientations of happiness in sport participation and thus supported the research model. Functional roles of the three orientations (pleasure, flow, involvement) were demonstrated in a causal chain of relationships. Among the direct effects, flow showed the highest predictive power on satisfaction followed by involvement. Pleasure only had significant indirect effects on satisfaction, via flow and involvement. This supports the notion from previous studies that flow and meaning have superior effects on satisfaction while pleasantness serves as a supplemental effect (Park et al. 2009; Peterson et al. 2005). Moreover, the mediation effect of involvement synthesizes the literature of consumer behavior (Mitchell 1979; Zaichkowsky 1985) with positive psychology as the indirect effect via involvement was supported in our model. Bootstrap analysis deconstructed each direct and indirect effect in the tested model (see Table 4). Overall, the research model provided evidence of the linkage between the paradigm of positive psychology and participant sport (Park-Perin 2010).

Considering positive emotions, Fredrickson (2003) highlighted four resources of positive emotions: intellectual, physical, social resources, and psychological resources. By utilizing their physical resources, sport participants not only show long-term improvements in health but also strengthen social bonds. However, the majority of previous studies have focused on the effects of regular physical exercises, while it is also necessary to study the effects of positive emotions when taking part in irregular physical activities. In our context, many research participants who visited ski resorts showed their emotional changes even through one-off participation. This warrants future research on disentangling the functions and contexts of positive psychological and physiological interventions in various bodily sensations of emotions. One possible implication of our results based on experiences of active participation would be in the function and concept of flow in leisure time.

In a ski resort context, it was meaningful to focus on the role of experiencing flow in physical activity when considering happiness. Both the total effect and direct effect of flow on satisfaction had the highest effect sizes among the bootstrap test results. Since Csikszentmihalyi and Csikszentmihalyi (1975) introduced the concept of flow, participation in physical activities has been identified as a desirable state bringing positive outcomes such as high level of self-esteem (Stein et al. 1995). Mannell and colleagues (Mannell and Kleiber 1997; Leckey and Mannell 2000) showed that flow could be conducive to opportunities of free choice and express participants’ personalities in leisure contexts (Decloe et al. 2009). Our model supports the literature and also extends the boundary of its functional roles by illuminating linkages with pleasure and involvement in a causal chain.

Even though flow and involvement has received much attention in leisure studies, the two have often been considered unrelated (Decloe et al. 2009). However, Havitz and Mannell (2005) asserted that a high level of involvement influenced by pleasure was found when a high level of flow was also present. Also, Decloe et al. (2009) emphasized the mediating role of involvement among psychological variables such as enjoyment, pleasure, and subsequent leisure behavior. Consistent with the previous literature, our model supported the intermediate effects of involvement as visitors of ski resorts can have a higher sense of meaning to the activity through the effects of pleasure and flow. Specifically, pleasure predicted the levels of flow and involvement related to the retrospective evaluations of subjective well-being. Thus, positive emotions are involved in the enhancement of the experience itself rather that the outcome psychological well-being per se. Nonetheless, it should be noted that positive emotion as a supplemental affect may be necessary but not sufficient to maintaining people’s welfare (Park et al. 2009; Peterson et al. 2005).

Most importantly for those researching the health consequences of sport participation—congruent with Allender et al. (2006)—this research indicates that sport participation can positively impact satisfaction. Satisfaction in this regard can lead to positive affirmations outside of sport (Huang and Humphreys 2012) which can impact the health and well-being of the individual. Therefore, practitioners can accentuate the happiness that sport can bring to the participant. Borrowing from this examination of the relationship between the social outing of skiing and satisfaction, practitioners should attempt to build group solidarity and afford individuals opportunities for satisfaction through involvement. This follows Brown and Vaughn’s (2009) assertion that adults participating in play can grow emotionally, socially, and creatively. It is the continued involvement that is important here. Therefore, sport practitioners should attempt to implement programs for retention as well as programs for recruiting new members.

For researchers, this study indicates an importance in further detailing the possible mediation effects of involvement. This is important for active participation resulting in satisfaction as indicated by the results in the study. This finding extends the conceptual framework of positive psychology to include physical involvement which holds many implications for sport researchers, psychology researchers, and sport psychology practitioners. Further, this study provides evidence that Kant was correct in his assertion that happiness involves something to do. However, the research does not address his assertion that happiness involves someone to love and something to hope for. Therefore, researchers should examine relationships within groups and the goals of individual sport participants within those groups. In order to appropriately evaluate relationships, qualitative analysis of a particular group of sport participants would help provide more depth to the current study. Thus, researchers should seek to interview participants and actively involve themselves within sport groups. This would provide a much better understanding for the social relationships that arise.

Additionally, future research should look at the benefits of sports other than skiing. Skiing is a particularly distinct sport insofar as access is geographically and monetarily determined. Thus, attempting to replicate this research in a sport setting that is more widely participated in could help with the characterization of activities that lead to satisfaction. Further, molecular mechanisms in the embodied experience of sport participation need elaborate investigation. For example, alternative interpretations of our data should be counter evidenced (or evidenced) by involving interdisciplinary approaches (e.g., physiology) to better disentangle how a satisfying life can be led by a diverse behavioral repertoire that includes pleasurable, engaging, and meaningful activities (Fredrickson 2001).

This research project indicates that subjective experience of pleasure in the skiing setting leads to satisfaction through mediating effects of flow and involvement. Through a retrospective evaluation of the orientations of happiness, the interrelated structure of each element embodied in a sporting activity was examined. The magnitude of each direct/indirect effect was disentangled by testing the model and emphasized the functional roles of such elements in sport participation. It is elucidated that sport participation can offer a positive intervention in life and enhance one’s happiness by engagement in rich experiences. Thus, this research project uniquely contributes to the research of sport participation and positive psychology and stands as a starting point for further positive psychology research in sport. As an initial effort in explicating the effects of sporting activities on positive psychology, findings of this study should be expanded upon to better understand the potential of developing well-being through sport participation.

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) 2013