The long-term outcomes associated with happiness and meaning-making were examined by following up on participants in previous studies on experiential learning an average of 2.5 years later. Measures of happiness and meaning-making were extracted by analyzing the participants’ journals using a computerized text-analysis program. Happiness as assessed by a composite measure of positive emotionality showed weak associations with the measures of adaptive functioning, and was negatively correlated with optimism, as well as positively correlated with emotion suppression. By contrast, meaning-making as assessed by composite measures of cognitive processing and self-distancing was robustly positively correlated with almost all measures of adaptive functioning. Regression analyses revealed that the two measures of meaning and their interaction term accounted for 20–24% of the variance in predicting the outcome measures. This study revealed that there may be at times a trade-off between happiness and meaning-making as well as a reversal in their patterns of long-term outcomes.
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