When was the last time you had a really great time? Not just a much-needed glass of wine in front of the telly, but an unquestionably good time, where memories were made, and fun was had?
Such experiences could be the answer to a long, happy life.
‘Fun’ might be a relative concept which has become harder to achieve during a pandemic, but it could be the way to better in an otherwise stressful and taxing time.
We’re not talking about fun within the confines of capitalism (yes, retail therapy can be pleasant, but it’s not the stuff that makes you smile when you think about it later). We’re not even talking about Netflix and chill or endlessly scrolling TikTok.
We mean good, unfettered fun that you might consider to be a highlight in your life. Like the exhilaration experienced after doing something exciting for the first time, or the triumph of winning a sports game or competition.
And while an audit might sound like an antithesis to fun, it’s worthwhile actively noting down the things you do that have bought you such joy.
Catherine Price, a 42-year-old writer and consultant from Philadelphia, explores the idea of a “fun audit” in her forthcoming book, The Power of Fun, in which she recommends documenting it all (not just for social media, but in a good old notebook or journal).
Price advocates a ‘funtervention’ – which means taking control of the few bits of extra time we get and using them to indulge ourselves a lot more.
Price, who previously published How to Break Up with Your Phone, attributes our loss of play time to our preoccupation with technology.
“Once you spend less time on your phone, you end up with more free time ― I suggest that we spend it on fun,” she explains.
Which is why she recommends creating a fun audit, which might sound like an oxymoron but bear with us a bit.
“A fun audit is the process of figuring out how much fun you are (or are not) currently having, and identifying your personal ‘fun magnets’ and ‘fun factors’ so that you can make a plan to incorporate more opportunities for fun into your life,” she says.
“Fun magnets are the activities, settings and people that are the most likely to generate fun for you personally; fun factors are the characteristics of your fun magnets. Also, my definition of fun—or, as I call it, True Fun—is “the confluence of playfulness, connection and flow.”
Price lists the plentiful mental, physical and cognitive benefits of fun, and how we can achieve better screen/life balance and attract more True Fun into our daily lives—without feeling overwhelmed.
“We typically think of fun as frivolous and self-indulgent, if we think of it at all. But it actually is absolutely essential to our happiness and mental and physical health,” she says.
But fun can come at a cost, she argues, and “capitalism can get in the way of fun”.
“We pursue happiness via the accumulation of material possessions, which require money (obviously!), which requires us to spend lots of time working to get money in order to pay for those things. But it’s possible to have fun without spending any money at all.”
Finding out what you genuinely find meaningful and joyous requires trying out different things. Laurie Santos, a Yale professor from New Haven, whose happiness and good life course became the most popular at the college, has tried the fun audit Price prescribes.
The academic, 46, says the pandemic has left us jaded and tired – and the way to revitalise ourselves is through fun.
There’s much merit in prioritising the good stuff, she says, including preventing burnout and improving mental health.
Once you make fun an important player in your life – by doing new things, or taking part in group activities such as sports – you end up being more productive and less tired, she says, as you’re left with more energy.
“I was so inspired by Catherine’s book that I tried her idea of a fun audit myself,” says Santos. “It helped me learn a bunch about what really feels fun. Not the usual stuff that’s marketed to us as fun—like buying something or watching TV— but what really felt fun for me.
“Turns out, so many of my fun memories include music, so I’ve been trying to incorporate more of that into my day. I also learned about the importance of self-compassion for trying new things. My funtervention with Catherine included trying to learn to surf, and being self-compassionate as I tried a new thing that I wasn’t good at yet.”
Calm self-care has its place, but raucous fun may be just as important. Is it time you had a funtervention too? We’ll see you there.
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