SF State News {University Communications}

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No pain, no gain applies to happiness, too

December 4 , 2009 -- No pain, no gain applies to happiness, too, according to new research by Ryan Howell. The psychology professor has found that people who work hard at improving a skill or ability, such as mastering a math problem or learning to drive, may experience stress in the moment, but experience greater happiness on a daily basis and in the longer term.

Photo of Professor Ryan Howell

Professor Ryan Howell

"No pain, no gain is the rule when it comes to gaining happiness from increasing our competence at something," said Howell, an assistant professor of psychology, whose study was recently published in the Journal of Happiness Studies. "People often give up their goals because reaching them can be stressful, but we found that there is benefit at the end of the day from learning to do something well. And what's striking is that you don't have to reach your goal to see the benefits to your happiness and well-being."

The study found that people who spend time increasing their competency, such as working, exercising, or doing homework, tend to feel decreased enjoyment and increased levels of stress in the moment, yet these activities make them feel happy and satisfied when they look back on their day as a whole. The results suggest that people need to endure the stress that comes in the heat of the moment to reap longer term happiness.

While this study looked at the relationship between time and happiness, Howell's other research has examined the relationship between money and happiness. His previous study, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, found that people derive greater satisfaction from purchasing experiences rather than material possessions.

-- Elaine Bible


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