Synchronicity Awareness May Increase Life Satisfaction
Your sense of well-being may improve by searching for meaning in coincidences.
Research suggests that we may increase life satisfaction by having synchronicity awareness.
Optimism, search for meaning, and synchronicity detection can increase the sense of well-being.
Synchronicity awareness and meaning-detecting are positively associated with openness to experience.
Synchronicity awareness and meaning-detecting are positively associated with tolerance for ambiguity.
A recent report in Frontiers in Psychology suggests that synchronicity experiences hold important implications for understanding how making meaning from unexpected events may contribute to individuals’ well-being. (Russo-Netzer & Icekson, 2023)
As past research suggests, two studies involving adult community samples (N = 198 and N = 440) demonstrate that synchronicity experiences are quite common and that the tendency to be aware of such experiences varies among individuals. Moreover, meaning detection in synchronicity was positively associated with life satisfaction.
What is “synchronicity meaning detecting”?
Synchronicity was introduced by Jung (1969) as an acausal connecting principle to explain the unpredictable occurrences of meaningful coincidence. Originating as an explanatory term, Jung's newly coined word synchronicity has come to mean the unpredictable occurrences themselves. These synchronicities often link the internal and external worlds of the individual. "Synchronicity meaning detecting" can be defined as the recognition of an emotional charge coupled with the application of the interpretation of the coincidence to their current life narrative.
The Synchronicity and Meaning Detection (SAMD) scale
The SAMD scale is comprised of two subscales: (a) synchronicity awareness (SA) and (b) synchronicity meaning detecting (MD). The synchronicity awareness subscale refers to awareness of the occurrence of synchronicity events. It includes the following instructions: “In our daily lives, surprising and unlikely events may occur. For each example, try to remember whether you experienced it and indicate the frequency in your life” (e.g., “I thought about a person and he\she contacted me unexpectedly shortly afterward”). The meaning detection subscale refers to the meaning detected in the synchronicities. It involved 13 items with these instructions: “Read carefully each of the following items and indicate the degree to which each of these items best describes you” (e.g., “I believe that listening to internal and external occurrences enables new discoveries”).
What may increase synchronicity awareness?
The evidence suggests that the search for meaning in life is positively associated with finding meaning in unexpected coincidences. In addition, the authors emphasized the importance of openness. Their model (REM), which was published in the Journal Current Psychology (Russo-Netzer & Icekson, 2020), refers to three major building blocks: receptiveness (R), or increased attention and openness to both a person’s internal and external world, (E), a sudden unexpected objective event that corresponds with a person’s inner state of mind which then may trigger memorable emotions, which then triggers meaning-detecting (M), a conscious process of connecting the event to a person’s life narrative. The current research demonstrated that the awareness of synchronicity events is positively linked with the tendency to search for meaning and with meaning detection when experiencing a synchronicity. To find meaning in a synchronicity, one must be open to finding meaning in life. One must first become aware of synchronicity experiences to find meaning in synchronicity.
Optimism and finding meaning in synchronicities may increase life satisfaction. Optimism was measured by the validated Hebrew Optimism subscale. Sample items include: “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best,” “I am always optimistic about my future,” and “Overall, I expect more good things to happen to me than bad.”. The Meaning in Life Scale was used to assess the search for and presence of meaning in the individual’s life, with “search for” and “presence of” representing two subscales of the overall measure. Both subscales were rated. The search for meaning subscale includes, “I am looking for something that makes my life feel meaningful” and “I am seeking a purpose or mission for my life”). The presence of meaning subscale includes “I understand my life’s meaning” and “My life has no clear purpose”). The authors concluded that the search for meaning was positively associated with synchronicity awareness, which was positively associated with synchronicity meaning-detecting. Moreover, the tendency to detect meaning in synchronicity experiences was positively correlated with both the presence of meaning in life and a sense of optimism, which were positively associated with life satisfaction.
In addition, Study 2, as suggested in the model, showed that the search for meaning was a) positively associated with synchronicity awareness and b) associated with higher synchronicity meaning-detecting. In addition, a higher tendency to detect meaning in synchronicity experiences was positively associated with c) both presence of meaning in life and d) a sense of optimism, and e/f) each, in turn, was related to enhanced life satisfaction. The present study offers a better understanding of the construct of synchronicity awareness by adding the dimension of meaning-detecting. While previous studies focused mainly on the frequency of noticing such events (e.g., Coleman et al., 2009; Fach et al., 2013), the present study also explored the meaning individuals attribute to such experiences. Furthermore, the findings suggest that synchronicity awareness and meaning-detecting are positively associated with openness to experience and tolerance for ambiguity.
This finding may correspond with observations from recent brain studies, suggesting that the tendency to experience meaningful coincidence was negatively correlated with gray matter activity in the brain in regions involved in causality detection and emotional control (Unger et al., 2021). This delineates an interesting direction for further research exploring the neural characteristics and personality traits of individuals more prone to be aware of and make sense of synchronicity experiences.
A word of caution
As the authors suggested that negativity can accompany some synchronicities. For two people sharing a synchronicity, one may have a positive experience, while the other may encounter disappointment (Beitman, 2022). Moreover, synchronicity awareness was also positively correlated with depression. Thus, future studies should explore its' possible "dark sides."
Overall, this study extends the existing literature of clinical reports and case studies of synchronicity by examining the possible underlying mechanisms leading from one’s search for meaning to life satisfaction. The results imply potential pathways for developing therapeutic, organizational, and educational interventions to enhance well-being. This mindset toward synchronicity may support individuals in coping with the challenges of our changing world, where uncertainty and complexity appear to be a significant part of our day-to-day reality.
Russo-Netzer, P. & Icekson, T. (2023). An Underexplored Pathway to Well-Being: The Development and Validation of the Synchronicity Awareness and Meaning-Detecting (SAMD) Scale. Frontiers in Psychology. doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1053296
Jung, C. G. (1969). “Synchronicity: An acausal connecting principle,” in The collected works of C. C. G. (Bollingen Series: Princeton University Press)
Russo-Netzer, P. & Icekson, T. (2020). Engaging with life: Synchronicity awareness as a pathway to personal growth. Current Psychology, 1-14. DOI: 10.1007/s12144-019-00595-1
Coleman, S., Beitman, B., and Celebi, E. (2009). Weird coincidences commonly occur. Psychiatr. Ann. 39, 265–270. doi: 10.3928/00485713-20090421-03
Fach, W., Atmanspacher, H., Landolt, K., Wyss, T., and Rössler, W. (2013). A comparative study of exceptional experiences of clients seeking advice and of subjects in an ordinary population. Front. Psychol. 4. doi: 10.3389/FPSYG.2013.00065/FULL
Beitman, B. (2022) Meaningful Coincidences: How and Why Synchronicity and Serendipity Happen. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions 2022)