Having a Passion in Life: Good or Bad?
As the old adage goes, "Do what you love and love what you do." Yet is it possible that having a passion could be a negative force when it comes to your physical and spiritual health? The answer depends on which of two types of passion you embrace, according to a report in the Journal of Happiness Studies entitled "Ruminations and Flow: Why do People With a More Harmonious Passion Experience Higher Well-being?"
In a nutshell, the research shows that a "harmonious passion" is good for you while an "obsessive passion" is bad for you. One of the study's authors, Robert J. Vallerand, Professor of Psychology at Universite du Quebec in Montreal, is credited with positing the existence of these two varieties of passion. Harmonious passions are those we can control. Obsessive passions are those that become addictive. An example of the former is the passion of a successful musician who practices faithfully but who also has a healthy work-life balance. An example of the latter is a competitive athlete who overtrains and resorts to performance enhancing drugs.
The team wrote: "The present study investigated the psychological mechanisms underlying the different impact of the two types of passion on well-being. A theoretical model involving passion, ruminations, flow experiences, and well-being was tested. Results showed that the more people have a harmonious passion, the more they tend to experience flow in their favorite activity, which in turn predicts higher well-being. Obsessive passion did not seem to be systematically linked to flow in the favorite activity. In contrast, the more people have an obsessive passion, the more they tend to ruminate about their passionate activity while engaging in another activity, which did not seem to be systematically the case for people with a harmonious passion. These ruminations are negatively related to flow experiences in the other activity, which are positively associated with well-being. Flow and ruminations thus seem to contribute to the understanding of the link between passion and well-being.