Positive Living Newsletter

Meaning Research

David F. Carreno, Ph.D.
Nikolett Eisenbeck, Ph.D.

2021 has been a difficult year. Countless lives have been lost due to COVID-19, and it is safe to say that nearly everyone has experienced some form of suffering related to the pandemic. Nevertheless, this year has also been a year of great scientific progress. Not only have the development of vaccines saved many people, but in psychology we have advanced in the knowledge of how to deal with collective traumas. Notably, a research project coordinated by Dr. Nikolett Eisenbeck and Dr. David Carreno has contributed to scientific knowledge by demonstrating the fundamental role of personal meaning and positive existential psychology in mental health. Around 40 international researchers have participated in the project, obtaining a sample of about 12,700 people from 30 different countries. Among the published results of this initiative, we find, for instance, the development and validation of the Meaning-Centered Coping Scale in 18 languages. This measure is based on the theory of Viktor Frankl and Paul Wong, and it has shown to be superior in predicting good mental health over traditional coping strategies. In a series of publications (seven of them published in the special issue “COVID-19 and Existential Positive Psychology (PP2.0): The New Science of Self-Transcendence” in Frontiers in Psychology), the key role of meaning-centered coping in stress, anxiety, and depression was shown, including its mediating potential between emotional intelligence and psychological well-being. Another study of this project indicated that during the first months of the pandemic, the Mature Happiness model of well-being proposed by Paul Wong predicted less psychological distress than Seligman’s PERMA model. And finally, part of the collected data was used in an upcoming paper on meaning in life in the journal of Nature.

These and other studies indicate that personal meaning and positive existential psychology, in general, are gaining attention globally. Their potential to help humanity in difficult times is supported by more and more scientific evidence.

Link to the project: