Dr. Dacher Keltner Is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. He's the Founder of the Greater Good Science Center.
In one of his famous experiments Dr. Keltner took a control group and an experimental group and told each one to do something fun that would make them happy. The first was to engage in their standard happy-making behaviors, like going to a bar, visiting a theme park, putting together a party. The second was given a list of things suggested by Dr. Keltner: Volunteer at a daycare center, homeless shelter, nursing home, adult school, and provide whatever services you're asked to provide.
When both groups returned with their results, the first group's results were peaks and valleys-very excited when they were engaged in the activity, but not so much when they got back. In short, the feelings of fun and happiness didn't last.
The second group had a different response. They reported that their results had a sustained sense of contentment. Specifically, the time they gave to another person elevated their mood, made them feel like they were doing something significant and, as a result, this feeling sustained itself for a longer period of time.
Happiness, as the researchers concluded, was not aligned with our standard definitions of fun or excitement. Rather, happiness was the result of our feelings of serenity and balance from what we gave to another person.
I try to list the things I find as fun, things that will bring me happiness, and I often borrow from both sides of the list. I love the excitement. Events, parties, concerts bring my enthusiasm into the stratosphere. But I loved the contentment of being with my children, walking my dog, breathing in the colors of the day, everyday, so grateful for all that I've been given.
My hope for you all is to try to find those things that are fun for you, on both sides of the ledger. Excitement and contentment, anticipation and security. Blast offs and landings. Make a list of the first twenty five fun things that come to mind. See how many land on the "excitement" and "contentment" side, and start doing these with vigorous commitment.
Whatever it is that you call happiness or fun, keep account of all that you do that puts a smile on your face, a sense of peace in your heart, and a sense of accomplishment in your spirit.