Mixed emotional experience is associated with and precedes improvements in psychological well-being

PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35633. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035633. Epub 2012 Apr 23.


Background: The relationships between positive and negative emotional experience and physical and psychological well-being have been well-documented. The present study examines the prospective positive relationship between concurrent positive and negative emotional experience and psychological well-being in the context of psychotherapy.

Methods: 47 adults undergoing psychotherapy completed measures of psychological well-being and wrote private narratives that were coded by trained raters for emotional content.

Results: The specific concurrent experience of happiness and sadness was associated with improvements in psychological well-being above and beyond the impact of the passage of time, personality traits, or the independent effects of happiness and sadness. Changes in mixed emotional experience preceded improvements in well-being.

Conclusions: Experiencing happiness alongside sadness in psychotherapy may be a harbinger of improvement in psychological well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychotherapy