The global objective of this experience sampling study with active, working mothers was to examine the influence of passion towards physical activity on daily positive and negative affect as well as more generally in terms of vitality. Overall, the results lend support for the tenets of the DMP and they generate new paths of enquiry. This study has several strong points. Firstly, the focus of this study was on passion for physical activity which has seldom been studied independently as a passion despite the fact it lends itself remarkably well to the DMP and that it has important ties to mental health (Parastatidou et al. 2012; Melville 2012). Secondly, this research was conducted with active, multiple-role women. They represent a unique population given the juggling that is required to incorporate a passion for physical activity into their busy daily lives. Moreover, women tend to have lower mental health than men and this must be better addressed (Hopkins Fishel 2008). Thirdly, four components of affect across valence (positive, negative) and activation (high, low) dimensions were evaluated which provided a more representative indicator of day-to-day well-being. Lastly, we capitalized on the experience sampling method, whereby we collected longitudinal, naturalistic self-report data in real-time.
All but three of the women that participated in this study were passionate toward physical activity, which they reported engaging in on close to 10 days (out of 14). On these activity days, the women reported higher overall levels of positive affect as well as lower negative affect compared to days when they did not engage, and this supported our hypotheses for purpose one. This is in-line with the DMP and similar conclusions in the domains of sport (Vallerand et al. 2008) and work (Vallerand and Houlfort, 2003) among others, as well as investigations that attest to the cross-domain applicability of the model (Vallerand et al. 2003; Mageau and Vallerand 2007). We conclude that engaging in physical activity as one’s passionate activity appears to be associated with and/or contribute to regular affective benefits.
This finding may relate to certain qualities inherent to this health behaviour. Carbonneau et al. (2010) followed the same line of reasoning to study the emotional outcomes of a passion for yoga, citing well-documented mind-body benefits that accompany a regular yoga practice. Our study expands on theirs by examining a breadth of physical activities and by gathering repeated assessments of daily affect rather than one-time retrospective reports of positive and negative emotions experienced during the activity (i.e., during yoga). Because of this, it was deemed relevant to assess both high and low activation affective states as both are likely to transpire over the course of a day. Incidentally, and unique to this study, it was observed that engaging in one’s passion for physical activity explained a similar proportion of variance in both high and low activation positive affect. Therefore it is likely that the rush and excitement of engaging in one’s passion can be accompanied by feelings of calmness and serenity over a day’s course. Other researchers have also reported that women experience fluctuations in both high and low activation states throughout the day, such as feelings of tranquility and exhaustion, and that these are sensitive to physical activity engagement (e.g., Focht et al. 2004). It may be worthwhile in future investigations to examine and/or control for biases pertaining to the time of day the physical activity occurred and relating to retrospective recall over a day’s course.
In the objectives that followed, we queried the dual conceptualization of passion within the (Vallerand et al. 2003) model for a more thorough understanding of the above effects. Individual hypotheses for our second purpose, regarding the respective influences of HP and OP on women’s daily affect, and on physical activity days specifically, were not supported statistically. Firstly, the autonomous internalization that typifies a HP was not significantly more beneficial emotionally over a day’s course than having engaged in the passionate activity itself, though this association was positive. Albeit this study was novel in analyzing an overall rating of daily affect, ours is not the first to have found non-significance for HP in relation to positive emotions (Ratelle et al., 2004), nor with respect to negative affectivity (Mageau et al. 2005). Still, the findings are not fully in line with the DMP nor with (Mageau and Vallerand 2007) who found that HP had a positive impact on positive affect assessed at the end of the day.
Secondly, higher levels of OP, stemming from a rigid and uncontrollable urge to engage in physical activity, did not appear to be emotionally injurious on days when the women engaged in the activity. As per (Ratelle et al. 2004), our relationship between OP and daily positive daily affect was negative, though it was non-significant and this is consistent with Mageau and Vallerand (2007). Still, true to the DMP, engaging in physical activity out of an OP should be associated with poorer emotional states given one’s rigid and defensive orientation. A few factors could account for why our findings disagree with others that support this theoretical association. First, links have largely been documented during or shortly after activity engagement (Stenseng et al. 2011; Mageau et al. 2005), whereas in this study an overall daily rating of negative affect was unrelated to OP on days when the women engaged in their passion. Second, borrowing from recent motivational theory-based studies (e.g., Guérin and Fortier 2012) it stands to reason that more agreeable affect for women with higher OP could be tied to a catharsis type of effect on days when they engage in physical activity. Namely, they may experience relief from feelings of guilt and anxiety attached to the activity and/or, in this population specifically, possibly also a feeling of gratification from having “fit it in”. Future qualitative work would be ideally suited to expose such possible origins of these results. Such investigations may be a good opportunity to examine the role of additional psychological characteristics such as neuroticism and/or mood disorders, which have been linked to excessive levels of guilt and may carry implications in terms of developing an obsessive passion (Beck & Alford, 2009). However, further restricting inclusion criteria among participants in order to highlight such qualities would limit the generalizability of unique results to other groups of individuals, which was already a limitation of using highly selective sample in the present study.
It is also important to acknowledge the likelihood of measurement issues in explaining the absence of certain associations. For instance, potential ceiling effects for positive affect may have reduced the variance left to be explained by passion variables. In addition, participants consistently reported minimal scores for high and low activation negative affect (i.e., floor effects). Although dichotomizing the variables permitted analysing the data, raw score specificity was lost. Moreover, the possibility of biased responding cannot be ignored as a limitation, in that the women in this sample may have avoided full disclosure of their negative affect (Fujita et al. 1991). Whether such social desirability effects are unique to our population of women or not, they may need to be controlled for in future studies.
With some caution, results of this study so far support that women who are passionate about physical activity can reap its well-established emotional benefits and that the orientation of this passion, be it more harmonious and/or obsessive, tends to have a neutral effect on daily affective states, at least on days when women are active. But as per the DMP, the act of engaging in the passionate activity presents only one side of the passion equation with respect to well-being. Indeed, the third purpose of this study was to examine the moderating effect of passion types on the relationship between participating in physical activity (versus not) and daily affect.
Consistent with Mageau and Vallerand (2007) and our hypothesis, we found that OP exerted a significant moderating influence on positive affect (high activation), such that greater OP levels resulted in lower positive affect on days when participants were not active. This lends added support for the DMP, namely that OP is tied to a dependence on the passionate activity, which leads to substantial frustration when one cannot partake in it (Vallerand 2010). The moderating influence of HP was a unique finding of this study since (Mageau and Vallerand 2007) did not see a significant effect. Group-based values can be interpreted such that being more harmoniously passionate fosters more stable positive affectivity that is less conditional on engaging in the passionate activity. According to (Vallerand 2010) this reflects an ability to adapt and focus energy elsewhere, which would be highly advantageous for women juggling many roles and responsibilities. Contrary to our hypotheses and tenets of the model, there were no moderating effects of HP nor OP for negative affect. Aforementioned measurement issues at a surface level may have played a role. On more theoretical grounds however, claims within the DMP pertain to being prevented from engaging in the activity. As a weakness of the current study, we did not inquire as to whether participants freely chose not to engage in physical activity or whether internal (i.e., injury) or external (e.g., daycare cancelation) circumstances prevented them from doing so. Such nuances in activity non-engagement may be particularly relevant in this population, and should be assessed in forthcoming investigations.
Being prevented from engaging in physical activity could lead obsessively passionate women to ruminate about the activity when not engaging in it (Donahue et al. 2012; Vallerand 2008). Maladaptive ruminations are one of the mechanisms that have been suggested to explain the influence of passion types on well-being. Other mechanistic influences that have received support include flow as well as enjoyment when engaged in the activity (Carpentier et al. 2012; Parastatidou et al. 2012). Specifically, individuals with greater HP tend to experience higher amounts of flow while partaking not only in the passionate activity but in other endeavours as well, and this can improve well-being. In future studies, dissecting the cognitions and feelings that also arise when partaking in competing, non-passionate activities and linking them to daily affective states would be informative, particularly among people who identify with the pursuit of many roles and responsibilities. These propositions tie in well with a more general assumption in this literature, namely that passion facilitates greater overall well-being through an accumulation of positive emotional experiences (Vallerand et al. 2007). Thus, it seems relevant to also examine enduring indicators of well-being (i.e., vitality) that can accrue over time in order to understand the progressive influence of one’s internalization of the passionate activity.
Thus, in a final purpose we examined passion types in association with levels of vitality assessed at the end of the 14-day study. Assessing vitality can also complement evaluations of more hedonic indicators of well-being like affect to provide a broader conceptualization of well-being (Ryan and Deci, 2001). As expected and after controlling for age and physical activity levels, we found that vitality was negatively predicted by OP but positively by HP. This is in accordance with the DMP as well as previous research (e.g., Philippe et al., 2009). We found this to be true not only for absolute levels of each type of passion but also when the women were divided based on their most salient passion type. Others have confirmed similar relationships cross-sectionally, as well as with vitality (and also life satisfaction) assessments after three and 12 months (Rousseau and Vallerand 2008; Philippe et al. 2009; Vallerand et al. 2007). Our results imply that researchers need to be cautious in generalizing the findings regarding vitality from the physical activity literature to all women–clearly, women’s internalization processes of physical activity need to be considered to promote a healthy participation. More specifically, our results suggest that while harmoniously passionate women are more likely to reap long-term, eudemonic and energizing benefits from physical activity, higher OP can result in degradation on the vitality spectrum toward exhaustion. In our study, daily low activation negative affect2 was unrelated to passion types which also suggests that the effect might only transpire gradually.
The findings from this study carry practical implications for well-being which complement our theoretical deliberations. Although eradicating a passionate activity altogether is one possible solution when an OP leads to deleterious effects (Vallerand 2010), this seems more applicable to acts such as gambling than physical activity, which is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Our results highlight the need to intervene with respect to women’s internalization of physical activity into their sense of self, which would mean progressing towards a more harmonious passion and away from an obsessive passion. An autonomous orientation may be sufficient for active, busy women to stay balanced while reaping the emotional benefits of this type of activity (Forest et al. 2012). Either way, several specific tactics may be useful: a) attending to the reasons why one began partaking in the activity while focusing on enjoyment b) group-based exercise sessions without any contingencies attached to activity; c) self-regulation strategies focused on investing energy in alternative activities and setting moderate physical activity goals, thus reducing anxiety. Testing the relevance and efficacy of these applications should be considered in future intervention research. Moreover, forthcoming studies should seek to further explore interesting underlying mechanisms as previously suggested while also addressing the limitations that have been acknowledged throughout this discussion.