This Personality Trait Has A Big Impact On Your Overall Life Satisfaction
In psychology, there exists a theory that we humans have an unconscious longing to return to the blissful symbiosis of mother and infant. Known as "oneness fantasies," this controversial concept hearkens images of an unborn fetus comfortably wrapped in the warm, loving darkness of the mother's womb, a small, knowable universe that the fetus is both sustained by and also one with. Even after birth, the newborn infant all but merges with their mother, thinking they're still one single being.
This concept of oneness with the person who birthed you soon fades, but many of us go on to find other sources of this oneness: Through yoga, meditation, religion, and many other practices, we're able to tap into some sense of interconnectedness with others, with nature, with something larger than ourselves. For me, the experience of being in a cramped, sweaty concert hall filled with people screaming their lungs out to words they all know by memory fills me with this indescribable sense of shared existence. I'm one drop in a collection of thousands of hearts beating in time—not just in this moment but in all the moments each of us is alone, elsewhere, humming those same tunes quietly to ourselves.
It turns out harboring these so-called oneness beliefs is correlated with higher life satisfaction, according to new research from the American Psychological Association.
The health benefits of being one with the universe.
The study, published today in the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality journal, surveyed more than 67,000 people to gauge their belief in the concept of oneness and their satisfaction with life. Those folks came from a wide variety of spiritual backgrounds, including Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and atheism.
More than any one spiritual belief system, people with strong oneness beliefs were most likely to be satisfied with their lives.
Laura Marie Edinger-Schons, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Mannheim and author of the study, adds that previous research has suggested this higher life satisfaction also correlates to concrete benefits like better academic performance for the young and better health for the old. "Research results from various disciplines point to the positive effects of feeling at one with life, connected to others, or connected to nature on adaptation, well-being, and life satisfaction," she writes. "Situational oneness experiences are frequently described by, for example, artists, meditators, runners, and writers and are commonly understood as healthy, progressive, and life-enhancing components of human experience."
What is oneness?
Edinger-Schons describes oneness as "the notion of being at one with a divine principle, life, the world, other persons, or even activities." She also cites a 2014 study that describes a oneness belief as "a belief in the spiritual interconnectedness and essential oneness of all phenomena, both living and non-living; and a belief that happiness depends on living in accord with this understanding."
In a second part of her study, Edinger-Schons also surveyed an additional group of some 3,000 people two separate times with six weeks in between to understand whether believing in oneness was a static personality trait. It was.
"Obviously, oneness beliefs are more than a situation-specific feeling or mood," she said in a news release. "They rather seem to represent a general attitude toward life."
The results showed the quality is closely related to social connectedness, connectedness to nature, and empathy.
Curious if you're someone who'd score high in oneness beliefs? Below are the five statements the research used to determine a person's levels of this quality. People were asked to rank each on a scale from one to five indicating the degree to which they agreed with the statement.
- I believe that everything in the world is based on a common principle.
- All things in the world have a common source.
- I believe that everything in the world is connected to each other.
- I believe in a divine principle underlying all being.
- Everything in the world is interdependent and influenced by each other.
It's not just about religion.
Religious people were more likely to be high in oneness beliefs, with Muslims having the highest median sense of oneness and atheists having the lowest. That said, when Edinger-Schons crunched the numbers, it turned out that oneness beliefs made people's lives better "over and above the impact of religious affiliation." In fact, when the effects of oneness were considered in determining what boosted people's life satisfaction, a lot of the positive effects of religion actually disappeared. Those results suggest oneness beliefs are a unique, powerful force in people's lives.
If you don't already, you might consider building experiences and rituals into your life that help you foster a stronger sense of interconnectedness with the world. That could be as simple as getting out into nature more often, attending a mindfulness-based connection camp every once in a while (or even a religious service, if it suits you), or just seeing a little live music more often.