Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 649

7 25 MAY 2023 FI GLOVER The journalist and broadcaster has her say Inmy opinion HAPPIER DAYS Britain is starting to get a bit happier again, according to the latest data In the O ce for National Statistics’ 2022 personal wellbeing survey, Brits gave themselves an average happiness rating of 7.54 out of 10. That’s up 0.15 – but below levels prior to the pandemic, when people reported a reduction in happiness and increased anxiety. The 2023 World Happiness Report saw Finland topping the table of happiest countries for the sixth year running, with the UK dropping two places to 19th (out of 137). A Rightmove poll named St Ives in Cornwall (below) as the happiest place in Britain, while a survey by Lindt found the top ve activities that make us happy are: 1) A good night’s sleep; 2) a sunny morning walk; 3) a hug; 4) sunny mornings; 5) time spent with friends and family. The 2021 census revealed an interesting new fact – that more than half of 20- to 24-year-olds still live with their parents. I think we knowwhy – rent rises, the goal of owning a home, overcrowded cities and the cramped employment landscape. There will be other factors for many young people, of course – anxiety from the pandemic years, the obvious appeal of someone else’s larder and laundry facilities, plus the possibility that they actually like their parents. I’mhoping those last three will keepmy two withme for years to come. They are approaching exactly that census age category. I could not have been happier to see these results, because I have ostrich syndrome, the little known but equally powerful precursor to empty nest syndrome. Ostrich syndrome is where you, the parent, put your head in the sand so you cannot see the horizon which you’re creeping towards. It enables you to ignore the fact that the amazing creatures who have been constantly by your side will no longer be just a hug away. It allows you to carry on in the face of the biggest change in your life since it changed when they arrived. And it’s clever, because it enables you to function on two levels. Ostrich syndrome allows you to showwild enthusiasm for university choices and the big wide world, while refusing to accept that soon there will be no damp towels on the floor, sections of the fridge won’t disappear overnight, windows won’t be left wide open and there’ll be no shaving foam to scrape o basins. All things that I amgoing tomiss hu ng and pu ng about. Genuinely. Ostrich syndrome is a life jacket in a stormy sea. If I didn’t have it on right now I’d be weeping intomy cup of tea – although I’d have to find one first by looking under my son’s bed. And that might break the spell. But if I had to face the fact that in 12months’ time I won’t be welcomed home from work by two voices shouting frombehind bedroomdoors, I’d be emotional toast. Howwill I function without someone to download apps and explainHDMI cables? That’s before we get to the importance of pronouns and why AndrewTate became so famous. And that’s before we get to those hugs – I had no idea about the sheer joy of the hugs. If you have ostrich syndrome, it’s important to turn these census results on their head. What they actually tell us is that half of parents still live with their children. At least that’s the way we’re going to see it, right?What a comforting result. Fi Glover and Jane Garvey’s show runs on Times Radio from3-5pm, Monday to Thursday. @fifiglover ‘Ostrich syndrome enables you to ignore the fact that the amazing creatures who have been by your side will no longer just be a hug away’ “I did feel better for the experience. I’m still prone to periods of inertia and self-pity. And when I got back on that machine at the gym, I’d actually put on 18months,” he laughs. “But I do feel I’ve got a sharper, slightlymore refined sense of fun. When I’m out and about, I’m looking for silliness, looking to engagemore with people.” And is he – very big word, this – happier? “I’m happier more often,” he says. “As I understand it, happiness comes in bursts, and I feel those bursts more frequently. I’mmore open to them. So I’m in a better head space, generally.” Ultimately, says Ben, he’s learned that fun is a subjective experience in the eye of the beholder. One piece of advice for those looking to increase fun in their lives? “There’s amillion things you can do,” he says, “and just one thing you can’t – and that’s do nothing. If you just make some small e ort, then you’ll collide with fun.” Don’t knowwhere to start? “Pick a bench and sit on it,” says Ben. “And leave your phone at home.” Here Comes the Fun: A Year of MakingMerry (Icon) by Ben Aitken is out now. @benaitken85 For Ben – whose previous books include The Marmalade Diaries, about his time house sharing with an 85-year-old widow – an important part of having fun is the people youmeet along the way. “They say hell is other people, but I’d argue fun is other people,” he says. “Research shows that, if you do something fun, it will elicit a bunch of happy hormones and chemicals. But if you do the same fun thing with other people, the result can double.” Fun is also “as much about taking things out as putting them in,” says Ben – who’s swapped his timestealing smartphone for a very basic handset. This mental decluttering is part of what Ben describes as the ‘back door’ approach to fun – the theory that, themore open you are to having fun, the easier you’ll hear it when it comes knocking. It’s also about “protecting and cherishing our inner child,” he says. “Children are full of wonder – they’re less self-conscious, more gung ho, andmore innocent. Experience is the enemy of fun.” Sixmonths on from the end of his experiment, is Ben still havingmore fun? “Yeah, I am,” he says. “I’m still playing football – and the ukulele. I’m cooking more, and I’m still cheerleading, believe it or not. BE MERRY (Top, left to right): Ben cools o after ecstatic dancing in Hackney Wick; telling a goat his woes; hitting the skies in a 1938 biplane; making jam at Tiptree farm, Essex Photographs: Alamy Stock Photo