Colette Sheridan: Why Leo Varadkar's propensity for fun is health enhancing....

Whatever happened to everyone’s right to have a bit of fun? So says Colette Sheridan
Colette Sheridan: Why Leo Varadkar's propensity for fun is health enhancing....

SEEKING OUT FUN: Doing things that make us happy can make us feel more alive, says Catherine Price. Picture: Stock

WHO would be a politician? OK, so there’s the fat salary, expenses and gold-plated pension. But that’s about it really, unless you value having a bit of power.

In this age of hyper-scrutiny where everyone with a smart phone is a self-appointed photographer, you literally can’t scratch because it will be captured and posted on social media. The mainstream media will pick up on it and before you know it, there’s a controversy stirring.

Like the recent one involving Tanaiste, Leo Varadkar, who was photographed at the Mighty Hoopla festival in London, just days after saying the UK’s rules regarding festivals were “definitely” not an example to follow.

There was a mighty hoopla in Eire about the audacity of Leo enjoying a social life during his free time when the music and entertainment industry here has been suffering hugely because of severe restrictions.

‘Oh give me a break,’ is no doubt what Leo muttered when the storm erupted. And who can blame him? Surely, he is entitled to have a social life and a private life?

Can the rest of us afford to be so righteous when, no doubt, we have broken the odd rule imposed on us because of the pandemic?

Leo wasn’t breaking any rules when he attended the music festival in Brockwell Park, London. But these days, it’s all about the optics. And insensitivity. Personally, I find the amount of time the broadcast media dedicates to such ‘controversies’ excessive, repetitive and tediously full of faux outrage.

Whatever happened to everyone’s right to have a bit of fun? (Maybe there isn’t such a ‘right’ but can we please dampen down on the tendency to be killjoys?). Leo topless on a sunny day in the Phoenix Park socialising with his partner and two friends when he was Taoiseach made for a great photo. I can’t quite remember what level of bile it was met with. Again, the man was doing nothing wrong.

The last time I was on a plane, returning from Venice to Dublin after the May Bank Holiday weekend in 2019, I spotted Leo on the flight. Presumably, he’d been having fun as had I.

I’m beginning to sound like an apologist for Leo Varadkar. But really, he’s just a highly visible example of someone in public office who would no doubt fight for his right to party, as the Beastie Boys put it. Quite right too. We all need our down time. Did you know that a conscious decision to bring more fun into our lives can improve both mind and body? So says American psychology professor and Happiness Lab podcaster, Laurie Santos. She is known as Yale University’s ‘happiness professor’ and says the way to feel better need not depend on strict diets, sweat-inducing exercise regimes or difficult mental challenges. Rather, the answer lies in something far more palatable - fun.

Professor Santos says that consciously injecting more fun into our lives - which she calls ‘funtervention’ - not just improves mental health but can be of benefit to physical health.

We missed out on fun during the pandemic because “some of the things we really need for fun involve connection.”

Playing sport (some people’s idea of fun) took a backseat during the height of Covid restrictions. Just getting together with friends (most people’s idea of fun) had to be forfeited leaving everyone feeling deflated.

And if you think that emphasising fun in our lives is frivolous, Professor Santos says: “The irony is, if we put more fun into our lives then we wind up becoming more productive, because fun makes you feel alive by definition, gives you a little bit more energy. It allows you to take a real break.”

What does the professor mean by fun? It’s not about unbridled hedonism involving lounging around taking drink and drugs. Thanks goodness for that! True fun, says Professor Santos, has to be active. She suggests carrying out a ‘fun audit’ as suggested by a forthcoming book, The Power Of Fun by Catherine Price.

The idea is to take a ‘non-judgemental look’ at what you found truly fun in the past - not what you found relaxing - and what elements it involved. Professor Santos found it involved music including ‘goofy singalongs’ in the car with friends. She even did some karaoke for a lark.

Professor Santos says we would all be having “a lot more fun if we tried new things, just like kids do. They seek out new activities and try new things out - they don’t beat themselves up if they don’t like them.”

Fun is not to be trifled with. Research has found that loneliness is as bad for the human body as fifteen cigarettes a day. Connection is required to have fun. Fun is a serious matter then. So get playful!

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