"Psychologists use the Experience Sampling Method, or ESM to find out how we really feel during different parts of our day. Subjects are interrupted at random intervals with a pager or by text message and asked to report two pieces of information: what they're doing and how they feel. One of the most common findings of ESM research is that what we think is "fun" is actually mildly depressing.
Virtually every activity that we would describe as a 'relaxing' kind of fun -- watching television, eating chocolate, window-shopping, or just chilling out -- doesn't make us feel better In fact, we consistently report feeling worse afterward than when we started "having fun": less motivated, less confident, and less engaged overall. But how can so many of us be so wrong about what's fun? Shouldn't we have a better intuitive sense of what actually makes us feel better?
We certainly have a strong intuitive sense of what makes us feel bad, and negative stress and anxiety are usually at the top of the list. ESM researchers believe that when we consciously seek out relaxing fun, we're usually trying to reverse these negative feelings. When we seek out passive entertainmnt and low-engagement activities, we're using them as a counterbalance to how stimulated and overwhelmed we feel.
But by trying to have easy fun, we actually often wind up moving ourselves too far in the opposite direction. We go from stress and anxiety straight to boredom and depression. We'd be much better off avoiding easy fun and seeking out hard fun, or hard work that we enjoy, instead."
-- Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken