Same here Shawn, experiencing the world and making others happy... And just being able to take a moment to appreciate it all. I don't like doing nothing at all and get bored by the idea of just sunbathing on a beach but occasionally, you just want to take ten minutes to lie back in the sun, hear the birds singing and feel the waves lapping at your toes.
I do also however also subscribe a bit to the whole Schopenhauerian "pleasure is just the absence of pain", and find a great part of gaining happiness, or at least avoiding misery, is to embrace melancholy and develop a dark sense of humour. If you really embrace or aestheticize suffering it becomes more bearable. For instance I'm an only grandson and my family's tiny on my biological father's side, so I go to my grandmother's as often as I can to see her. Often she gets quite depressed about the state of her house among other things, but it's always when we're at the lowest ebb- she'll say something about wanting to throw herself under a train but her feet hurting too much to walk to the station- that there'll be a pause, and then we'll burst out laughing.
My happiness comes from:
1) Realizing happiness is not an end unto itself but a by-product of achievements and contribution.
2) Closely related to the first is knowing happiness is in the journey more than the destination.
4) Self-satisfaction from effort in living a "the good life".
5) Mastering my cognitive thoughts into happy positive ones.
6) Realizing what I can an cannot control and focusing my efforts on what i can and worrying less about what I cannot, and strongly tempering my expectations of things not in my control.
7) Realizing that my perceptions control how I feel, and I can change my perceptions.
8) That being happy is a choice that requires effort.
9) Realizing that thinking and behaving in a happy manner strongly influences my level of happiness and conversely thinking and behaving in a sad manner strongly influence my level of sadness.
10) Assuming pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.
11) Being mindful of what I am thankful for and not taking those things for granted.
12) Realizing that people come into and out of my life and to enjoy their company while they are here.
13) Realizing that I don't really own things and making sure I enjoy those things while they are in my life.
Choice does it. Maybe different people find different paths, and some elements are common to all (selflessness, serving others, controlling your own dominant thoughts, etc), but at the headwaters of all of these is choice. Funny thing is, nobody can be happy (for very long) who doesn't first choose to be. So why the heck doesn't everybody choose to be? The people who don't are probably busy blaming their problems, and getting shown up by those who manage to be happy in the midst of their problems, not in the absence of them.
It's like my wife asking, "do you love me?" ... to which I answer "yes", like a good husband should. Then she asks, "why?" .... and i say (damn!-- [cough, cough]) ... scratch my head for a while, and then say "because I choose to. Sure, you're beautiful, funny, smart, easy to get on with and you wash my clothes for me, we share some common interests and you make an awesome lasagne ... but there have been moments when some or all of these things weren't true (except for the beautiful part -- my couch is too short to sleep on comfortably). At the end if it all, I love you because i choose to. More correctly, at some point back when we were both at university, I chose to, and sometime when I felt like not loving you, I chose to choose to, and my choice hasn't changed."
I would put to the group that at its essence, happiness is absolutely no different.
"Just know that (in my very humble opinion) gins that do well in a G&T often taste bad in a martini. Hence many people tell me they don't like martinis, and then they tell me what gin they use and I go "a-ha!".
But if you…"