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I Gotta Say, Today Was a Good (and Meaningful) Day: Daily Meaning in Life as a Potential Basic Psychological Need

Abstract

Prior research has found that global meaning in life promotes several forms of well-being such as better coping and lower stress, and suggests that meaning in life is a common experience that is shaped by daily experiences. We build on this research by testing the possibility that meaning is a basic psychological need. In Study 1, participants (N = 195) completed a 21-day diary that included daily assessments of depressive symptomology, affect, and self-esteem. In Study 2, participants (N = 142) completed a 14-day diary, adding stress and vitality as additional indicators of well-being. Across both studies, we found that meaning in life is a consistent predictor of psychological well-being. Further, in Study 2, we tested the unique role of meaning in life against other basic psychological needs (i.e., autonomy, competence, relatedness), finding that meaning in life continues to predict well-being even in the presence of other psychological needs.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Direction and significance of results is unchanged when including a random slope for meaning in life.

  2. 2.

    Direction and significance of results is unchanged when including a random slope for meaning in life.

  3. 3.

    Direction and significance of results is unchanged when including a random slope for meaning in life.

  4. 4.

    When competence is the only predictor, it is in fact associated with less negative affect (\(b = - .07 \left[ { - .10, - .04} \right], p < .001\)). When only meaning in life is omitted from the model, competence is not significantly related to negative affect, though the sign is positive (\(b = .02 \left[ { - .02, .04} \right], p > .250\)). Thus, meaning in life does not appear to be redundant with perceived competence.

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Correspondence to C. Veronica Smith.

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Hadden, B.W., Smith, C.V. I Gotta Say, Today Was a Good (and Meaningful) Day: Daily Meaning in Life as a Potential Basic Psychological Need. J Happiness Stud 20, 185–202 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-017-9946-y

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Keywords

  • Meaning
  • Well-being
  • Self-determination theory
  • Need satisfaction