Find your happiness through counselling at our Melbourne practice

July 19, 2015

A common goal we see at our psychology practice in Melbourne tends to be that people are constantly trying to increase their happiness. We seek pleasure in everything from food and friends, to sex and adventure. Yet, it appears that many people seem to be chasing something that they haven’t ever fully thought about. The question that doesn’t seem to be asked is; what exactly is happiness?

Happiness or expected happiness is often associated with wealth, relationships, the perfect home or other things that will makes us feel good (Australian Unity, 2010). However, what people are often talking about when they focus on these types of experiences is the seeking of pleasure.  Over the last 30 years, psychology has focused a lot of research on pleasure-seeking behaviours and experiences but has also gone beyond this definition of happiness. Subjective wellbeing, which is one of the most common measures of happiness in psychology, focuses on how good or bad someone is feeling at the time, and how they rate the overall quality of their life. It is this rating of one’s life that brings in a broader definition of happiness than just pleasure-seeking or feeling good right now.

One area of psychology that takes the idea of wellbeing further than just happiness-maximisation is Positive Psychology. Many of the biggest thinkers in the field focus on much more than just feeling good, instead emphasising things like the meaning people make in their life, or the acts of service they do for others. These things don’t always have to feel great, in fact some research has shown meaning is incredibly important at integrating the past, present and future for those who have experienced trauma (Baumeister, Vohs, Aaker, & Garbinsky, 2013). In a similar vein, being of service to others doesn’t always feel good at the time either. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable, rough, hard work. But at the end of the day the research tells us that those bad feelings are actually an important part of feeling good long term (Aknin, Dunn, Sandstrom & Norton, 2013).

What I am trying to convey in this short piece is that happiness doesn’t always have to stem from immediate easy gratifications. Sometimes it is hard, and doesn’t even feel good until after the fact. Sometimes, it is those terrible moments that actually give us a deeper meaning and understanding in our lives. But regardless of what it is, the most important thing is to just keep on questioning why you’re chasing what you are chasing. Because if you are chasing something that you have never actually thought about, then one day you might wake up and realise that what you have been chasing doesn’t really mean all that much to you.

If you would like to find out more about understanding your happiness, please book a consultation with one of our Melbourne counsellors.


By Samuel McKay

Aknin, L.B., Dunn, E.W., Sandstrom, G.M. and Norton, M.I. (2013). Does social connection turn good deeds into good feelings?: On the value of putting the `social´ in prosocial spending. International Journal of Happiness and Development, 1(2), pp. 155-171.

Australian Unity (2010). What Makes Us Happy: 10 Years of the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index.

Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., Aaker, J. L., & Garbinsky, E. N. (2013). Some key differences between a happy life and a meaningful life. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(6), 505-516.