Issue 2
Monday, 26 March 2018
Charles Darwin University
E-news
Associate Professor in Psychology Simon Moss incorporates magic shows into his lectures because the challenge makes him happy. Photo: Julianne Osborne
Associate Professor in Psychology Simon Moss incorporates magic shows into his lectures because the challenge makes him happy. Photo: Julianne Osborne

Happiness hunters should play the long game

By Ellie Turner

The pursuit of happiness often inhibits  the experience of it, according to a psychology researcher.

The world’s lucrative lifestyle industry revolves around the average person’s quest to be happy, marketing attractively packaged exercise trends and wellness products, but studies reveal a paradox: people who are motivated to seek happiness are less likely to find it.

Associate Professor in Psychology Simon Moss said people often defined happiness as something they felt in a moment, rather than taking a holistic approach to their wellbeing.

“As psychologists we obsess with this notion of distinguishing between hedonic happiness – instant gratification – and eudaimonic happiness, which regards a meaningful life achieved through purpose, growth and spirituality,” he said.

Dr Moss, who enjoys the challenge of incorporating magic shows into his lectures, said ambivalence, rather than happiness itself, was the most productive state of being when looking to achieve growth and fulfilment.

“We grow the most when we have mixed feelings,” he said.

“Deliberately engaging in an activity that makes you feel simultaneously nervous and excited, or reflecting on something that makes you feel sad but gives you a sense of hope, can be productive. 

“There are a number of possible explanations for this; one is that positive and negative emotions activate different parts of the brain that work well together.”