Flow the wu-wei way: A thematic analysis of charity runners’ experience of wu-wei in enhancing wellbeing and flourishing





There is increasing interest and research into non-Western perspectives on wellbeing and ways of flourishing in different cultures. This study builds on this by investigating the Taoist concept of wu-wei, translated from Chinese as ‘non-action’ or ‘actionless action’, through the experiences of ten runners (age 40 to 63; four identifying as male and six as female) who run for charitable causes and how this contributes towards their wellbeing. Semi-structured interviews were conducted then transcribed, and four core themes and eight subthemes identified using thematic analysis. Analysis showed that the four core themes for participants to achieve wu-wei were experience of suffering or adversity, being fully focused on the present (with an element of mindfulness), having a shared experience with the running community, and adopting a broader perspective on life (including in meaning or purpose). By accepting their experiences of suffering or adversity and pursuing pro-social activities, such as running for charitable causes, participants used mindfulness through running to develop a broader perspective on life and attain wellbeing. The findings indicate that the Taoist concept of wu-wei can be applied in positive psychology when manifested as a key facet of running as a positive psychology intervention suggesting its relevance to the wellbeing literature. This study highlights the importance of embracing cross-cultural approaches to wellbeing by looking at non-Western perspectives and their application to the global population.


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