Managing Adversity Improves the Outcome of Happiness
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
The greatest benefit from positive emotions occurs when we learn to manage negative emotions. In a research study examining the relationship between happiness and GPA researchers found the expected outcome that happier college students had higher grades. They also found that happiness tended to increase over the course of college as students learned how to manage stress and other negative emotions.
However, an interesting twist that confirms the importance of facing adversity and learning to overcome it is that the benefits of happiness were greatest when challenged. This is not to say that people are happier when challenged nor that overcoming challenges increases happiness (although that may be true). What this research does indicate is that the benefits associated with happiness are greater when a person manages adversity (Barker, et al., 2016).
The researchers found that students' grades were higher during the semesters they were challenged and managed negative emotions/stress than when they did not have challenges but were happy. Happiness combined with overcoming adversity corresponded with the better outcome. Such findings shows that happiness without challenge may not provide the incentive to develop the skills needed for success such as persistence and problem-solving.
Barker, E.T., Howard, A.L, Galambos, N.L. and Wrosch, C. (2016). Tracking Affect and Academic Success Across University: Happy Students
Benefit From Bouts of Negative Mood. Developmental Psychology, 52, 2022–2030. DOI: 10.1037/dev0000231<
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