Happiness measures as presented by researchers are based on these evaluations, dependent on people making sophisticated and comparative judgements.
If we want to focus on direct experience, I’d suggest we look towards improvisational practices. They are designed to generate a range of moments that produce pleasure and sometimes - mildly - pain. Improvisation gives us episodes of immediate feeling. It opens a way into looking at the meaning of moments rather than the meaning of life. We can report on how the birthday party went, rather than the bigger story we tell about being a father.
There is plenty of research about the associations between happiness and parenting, by the way. Having children tends to increase one's sense of purpose, rather than offering immediate pleasure.
Dolan says we can view much of what we do as looking for a more efficient production process to convert our inputs into outputs of happiness. This production process depends on how much of our scarce resource of attention we pay to things. Allocation of attention is a primary skill of improvisation. And we have choices of where to put our attention. We can, for example, attend more closely to those things that work well for us, to the conditions that help us succeed. It makes tremendous strategic sense to consciously set up favourable conditions and contexts for our better habits.
More on Paul Dolan here: http://happinessbydesign.com/
Easy: Your LIFEPASS to Confidence and Creativity will be released June 2015