Skip to main content
Log in

Positive Emotions Experienced on Days of Stress are Associated with Less Same-Day and Next-Day Negative Emotion

  • Published:
Affective Science Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Positive emotions help us during times of stress. They serve to replenish resources and provide relief from stressful experiences. Positive emotions may be particularly beneficial during times of stress by dampening negative emotional reactivity and quickening recovery from stressful events. In this study, we used a daily diary design to examine how positive emotions experienced on days with minor stressful events are associated with same-day and next-day stressor-related negative emotions. We combined data from the National Study of Daily Experiences II (NSDE II) and the Midlife in the United States survey (MIDUS II), resulting in 1,588 participants who answered questions about daily stressors and emotion across 8 consecutive days. On days when people experienced a stressor and had higher than their average level of positive emotion, they experienced less of a same-day increase in negative emotion. Additionally, they experienced less subsequent negative emotion the following day and were less likely to experience a stressor the next day. Results held when adjusting for trait measures of positive and negative emotion. These results suggest that daily positive emotions experienced on days of stress help regulate our negative emotion during times of stress.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig 1

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Almeida, D. M., Wethington, E., & Kessler, R. C. (2002). The daily inventory of stressful events an interview-based approach for measuring daily stressors. Assessment, 9, 41–55.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Almeida, D. M., McGonagle, K., & King, H. (2009). Assessing daily stress processes in social surveys by combining stressor exposure and salivary cortisol. Biodemography and Social Biology, 55, 219–237.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Segerstrom, S. C. (2010). Optimism. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 879–889.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, S., Hamrick, N., Rodriguez, M. S., Feldman, P. J., Rabin, B. S., & Manuck, S. B. (2000). The stability of and intercorrelations among cardiovascular, immune, endocrine, and psychological reactivity. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 22, 171–179.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Faulk, K. E., Gloria, C. T., Cance, J. D., & Steinhardt, M. A. (2012). Depressive symptoms among US military spouses during deployment: the protective effect of positive emotions. Armed Forces & Society, 38, 373–390.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Folkman, S., & Moskowitz, J. T. (2000). Positive affect and the other side of coping. American Psychologist, 55, 647–654.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fredrickson, B. L., (1998) Cultivated emotions: Parental socialization of positive emotions and self-conscious emotions. Psychological Inquiry, 9(4), 279-281

  • Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218–226.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Positive emotions broaden and build. In P. Devine & A. Plant (Eds.), Advances in experimental social psychology (pp. 1–53). Burlington: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fredrickson, B. L., & Levenson, R. W. (1998). Positive emotions speed recovery from the cardiovascular sequelae of negative emotions. Cognition & Emotion, 12, 191–220.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fredrickson, B. L., Mancuso, R. A., Branigan, C., & Tugade, M. M. (2000). The undoing effect of positive emotions. Motivation and Emotion, 24, 237–258.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kessler, R. C., Andrews, G., Colpe, L. J., Hiripi, E., Mroczek, D. K., Normand, S. L., et al. (2002). Short screening scales to monitor population prevalences and trends in non-specific psychological distress. Psychological Medicine, 32, 959–976.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leger, K.A., Charles, S.T., & Almeida, D.M. (2018). Let it go: lingering negative affect in response to daily stressors can impact physical health years later. Psychological Science. Advance Online Publication.

  • Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803–855.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moskowitz, J. T., Shmueli-Blumberg, D., Acree, M., & Folkman, S. (2012). Positive affect in the midst of distress: implications for role functioning. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 22, 502–518.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mroczek, D. K., & Kolarz, C. M. (1998). The effect of age on positive and negative affect: a developmental perspective on happiness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1333–1349.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Wisco, B. E., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). Rethinking rumination. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 400–424.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ong, A. D. (2010). Pathways linking positive emotion and health in later life. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19, 358–362.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ong, A. D., & Bergeman, C. S. (2004). The complexity of emotions in later life. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 59, 117–122.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ong, A. D., Bergeman, C. S., & Bisconti, T. L. (2004). The role of daily positive emotions during conjugal bereavement. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 59, 168-176.

  • Ong, A. D., Bergeman, C. S., Bisconti, T. L., & Wallace, K. A. (2006). Psychological resilience, positive emotions, and successful adaptation to stress in later life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 730–749.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pressman, S. D., & Cohen, S. (2005). Does positive affect influence health? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 925–971.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Scott, S. B., Sliwinski, M. J., Mogle, J. A., & Almeida, D. M. (2014). Age, stress, and emotional complexity: results from two studies of daily experiences. Psychology and Aging, 29, 577–587.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sliwinski, M. J., Almeida, D. M., Smyth, J., & Stawski, R. S. (2009). Intraindividual change and variability in daily stress processes: findings from two measurement-burst diary studies. Psychology and Aging, 24, 828–840.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Thomsen, D. K., Mehlsen, M. Y., Christensen, S., & Zachariae, R. (2003). Rumination—relationship with negative mood and sleep quality. Personality and Individual Differences, 34, 1293–1301.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tugade, M. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). Resilient individuals use positive emotions to bounce back from negative emotional experiences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 320–333.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Carey, G. (1988). Positive and negative affectivity and their relation to anxiety and depressive disorders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 97, 346–353.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zautra, A., Smith, B., Affleck, G., & Tennen, H. (2001). Examinations of chronic pain and affect relationships: applications of a dynamic model of affect. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69, 786–795.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zautra, A. J., Affleck, G. G., Tennen, H., Reich, J. W., & Davis, M. C. (2005). Dynamic approaches to emotions and stress in everyday life: Bolger and Zuckerman reloaded with positive as well as negative affects. Journal of Personality, 73, 1511–1538.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kate A. Leger.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Leger, K.A., Charles, S.T. & Almeida, D.M. Positive Emotions Experienced on Days of Stress are Associated with Less Same-Day and Next-Day Negative Emotion. Affec Sci 1, 20–27 (2020).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: