Many people draw on synchronicity as a means to promote wellbeing. It can positively impact on all five of the key pillars of mental wellbeing identified in the PERMA model of positive psychology – positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement. More generally, it supports our sense of connection to others and the world around us.
Many report that they experience more synchronicity when they are on track in their everyday lives. Indeed, many people consider synchronicity to be a valid and meaningful indication that they are following the life path that is right for them. This can strongly support their sense of purpose and meaning. I consider it to be like a tick from the universe that you’re on the right track.
This does not mean that we ignore other indications of whether we are on a path that is worthwhile for us. However, especially when synchronicity is strong – such as when the coincidence was highly improbable and yet seems highly meaningful, it can add to our confidence in pursuing the action we are taking and the direction we are heading in.
In this context, we are likely to experience more synchronicity if we are well aware of our main priorities and are actively taking steps to pursue a worthwhile life direction for us. This could be described as living with intention.
We are also more likely to experience synchronicity when we encounter novel circumstances. This is more likely when we vary our routines and are less bound by habits. For example, many people experience more synchronicity when they travel.
Many of those who have written about synchronicity describe strategies to help experience more of it and to derive greater benefit from it. There is considerable overlap in these suggestions. This is my own take on 10 steps that can help us experience synchronicity more frequently and to gain more fully from the experience.
The ten steps
You’re more likely to experience synchronicity when you’re being spontaneous and in a state of flow. Being open also means living in the moment with our senses attuned outwardly rather than being distracted by internal thoughts and reactions.
Being open also involves being prepared to respond to your experience without judgment, perhaps being prepared to suspend disbelief without seeking rational explanations for your experience. It might not occur as readily when in an analytical or logical thinking mode. As my friend Lisa Buksbaum puts it, “be open to being open”. This might mean allowing for a transpersonal or a mystical dimension in life.
Follow your nose
This means respond to your intuition as you move around. This may be as simple as following an inkling to turn left or right, or to head in a particular direction when you see something that draws your interest. It means following your intuitive awareness. The psychiatrist, Dr Bernard Beitman, sometimes refers to this as following your “human GPS”. At times we might only become aware of having done this in retrospect, such as finding something we were looking for, without even being actively aware that we were seeking it.
Notice what you notice
Pay attention to whatever draws your attention. Be curious about things that seem particularly unusual or that come out of the blue. Notice what stands out to you. It might be a particular person or object, or something that’s happening, or something unusual about the setting that you’re in. Especially pay attention to anything you notice that is accompanied by a numinous feeling, meaning a compelling feeling that something is especially relevant, without necessarily being able to explain why.
Use your intuition
Allow yourself to freely contemplate what the coincidence might mean. For example, how might there be a particular relevance to something that we were thinking about that connected uncannily with something that happened in the outside world? Apply your imagination when considering any answer. If no interpretation is immediately obvious for a striking coincidence, I follow the advice of my friend, Ross, and “file it away”. As he describes, a meaning is more likely to make itself known if we “live the question”, to borrow an expression from the poet, Rilke. As Ross describes it, “something drifts your way and broadens and deepens your understanding and helps your awareness.”
Look for symbolism
Look for symbolism in what you’ve encountered and notice your associations to it. This initially can relate to anything that immediately comes to mind, especially if it is accompanied by a strong intuitive or numinous feeling. Explore the symbolism as you apply your imagination. What does an uncannily repeated number or word represent to you? What does a symbolic object represent to you? What might an unexpected encounter or opportunity mean to you? How might you connect the dots?
Your appreciation of symbolism may develop further by learning about myths or symbols from other cultures. This helps us more fully tap into what Jung referred to as the collective unconscious. Worthwhile reading includes Jung’s works, Man and His Symbols and Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
Go with your own interpretation
The key issue here is what stands out to you and what is important to you and what is meaningful to you. You are likely to be more confident with any interpretation that comes with a compelling flash of insight, sometimes known as an A-ha experience. More often your reaction is likely to be relatively mild and your interpretation more speculative, depending on such factors as the degree of improbability of the coincidence, how numinous the feeling that accompanies it and how compelling the subjective interpretation might be. Your confidence in your interpretations will be influenced by the seeming accuracy of your interpretations over time. Notice and process this objective feedback to further calibrate your justified faith in your intuition.
Act on it! (combine synchronicity with kairos)
If your synchronistic experience suggests some action, act on it! This is especially the case if the coincidence seems strongly synchronistic and your interpretation feels compelling. As Carlos Castaneda described it, take your “cubic centimetre of chance”.
I describe this as combining synchronicity with kairos, which relates to acting decisively in a timely manner. You can still briefly check whether your action is consistent with rational motives. If so, take your opportunity soon after it has arisen. You can later reflect on the worthiness and helpfulness of your action, to further appraise the validity of your intuition.
Consider the big picture meaning
Consider the meaning of the synchronicity in the context of your life experience.
Over a lifetime synchronistic experiences can build up to a larger theme. You might have a sense of jigsaw pieces falling into place, giving you a greater sense of meaning and life purpose. For example, I described in my book, The Positive Psychology of Synchronicity, how my experience of synchronicity helped clarify my life purpose of helping people transform mental health problems into personal growth.
When we record experiences of synchronicity we are inviting more of it to happen. It helps us be even more attuned to coincidences and the meaning we might attach to them. It also helps us to more accurately remember the details of an experience. This can also be relevant to more objectively considering the probability, or improbability, of the event happening. In general, the more improbable an event, the stronger the synchronicity.
When you record a synchronistic experience, or any coincidence that gets your attention, note what happened, the time, how strong the synchronicity was, any initial interpretations, key details of the experience, and anything else that you’d like to add. You can also take photographs as a record of your synchronistic experience. Looking back on your photos can evoke the (usually positive) emotions you felt at the time.
Tell other people about your stories of synchronicity. Discuss your experience in some detail, perhaps initially with trusted others. This helps to consolidate the memory of the experience and its meaning for you. Telling your synchronistic stories helps break down barriers and reduces stigma around considering a more transpersonal or mystical dimension in life. It strengthens our connection with our inner world, each other and the world beyond us. As we say in The Coincidence Project, it helps illuminate the invisible currents that unify and connect us. This extra sense of connection supports a more holistic view of our lives and our world and is generally helpful for our wellbeing.
Taking the above steps to cultivate more synchronicity in our lives can support what Carl Jung referred to as individuation, or what Abraham Maslow referred to as self-actualization. The more we help ourselves grow and develop as individuals, whilst also respecting others individuality and supporting their growth, the more we can offer our local communities whilst helping to address challenging problems and promote wellbeing in the world at large.
For a podcast discussion on this theme, click here.
– Chris Mackey is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society and is the principal psychologist at Chris Mackey and Associates, with 40 years’ psychotherapy experience. He received the 2019 Australian Allied Health Impact Award for his clinical research and media work.
Chris is the author of The Positive Psychology of Synchronicity: Enhance Your Life with the Gift of Coincidence.
For more information about synchronicity, how it works and illustration of its benefits, see other blogs, etc, at www.synchronicityunwrapped.com.au.
See also the work of other authors and synchronicity experts involved in The Coincidence Project at https://thecoincidenceproject.net/.
Chris’s Psych Spiels podcast episodes on synchronicity include,