When was the last time you did something just because it was fun? So asked Gwyneth Paltrow in character as Holly Holliday on Glee, a hilarious line coming from an actress whose internet newsletter encourages its readers to "police" their thoughts and who hosted a Spanish cooking show where she watched others eating pork while she kept up her strict vegan diet. Strict and dedicated, yes. Fun? Not so much.
Nevertheless, it's a question that seems relevant on the eve of a Christmas holiday, where many of us take time out to relax, but find it really hard to let go - from our mobile phones, emails, work and general stresses. Where did old-fashioned joy go? That true, unadulterated pleasure that one gets from skivving off, doing nothing, switching off, eating a huge piece of cake, enjoying a long lunch, without the guilt. The small things that make us smile, things that are often described as "naughty", especially in a decade where we've largely been encouraged to be healthy, eat organic, do exercise, work hard, then work even harder to be more successful than him, skinnier than her, richer than them. Being sensible doesn't encourage pleasure-taking; no time for that when we're too busy being stressed and overworked.
But this summer, we think it's time to celebrate pleasure and take time out for enjoyment; like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, a princess overwhelmed by duty who has fun for the first time in her life while riding a scooter through the streets of Rome, eating gelato, dancing on a boat and cutting her hair on a whim. Take inspiration from Hepburn, and enjoy some of these simple delights:
The pleasures of nature
Even if you're not into all that hippie dippie stuff, connecting with nature feels good. Sit in the sunshine, have a picnic in the park, go for a bushwalk, get away from the city lights and appreciate the true beauty of the night sky. Even something as simple as gardening has had some of the pleasure taken out of it, with companies that can come and set up and grow your vege garden for you. Where's the joy in that?
The pleasure of imperfection
Nothing and no one is perfect, but that doesn't stop us all from trying to be. But there is beauty in imperfection, whether it be beautifully mussed beach hair, an awkward conversation on Christmas Day, or taking photos on film rather than digital - without the immediate rush to check the image and deleting it if you think you look fat.
The joy of doing nothing
Being idle, possibly the hardest thing for most of us - even sleeping in is enough to give some people a day-long case of the guilts. Make like the Italians with "dolce far niente" which loosely translates to the "sweetness of doing nothing".
The joy of just doing something
If you're bored then you're boring, apparently. Never has this seemed more true than at the end of 2010; when being boring is akin to death and your witticisms on Twitter equate to a real personality. No longer can we be content with simply eating a beautiful meal; it must be written about on Twitter and Facebook, photos must be taken to put up on your blog. Author Tom Wolfe 's observation on social photography, "You went out last night, nobody wrote about it: do you exist?", could be reinterpreted as, "You did something, you didn't write about it: did it happen?" Think of it this way: stop chronicling your life, live it.
The joy of takeaways
Food snobs, look away; I'm about to write the unspeakable: takeaways taste good. And not "gourmet takeaways" - I'm talking KFC, McDonald's, Domino's, Wendy's, Burger King, and so on. The type of takeaways that we're not supposed to confess to liking, let alone confess to eating. But sometimes - and not just when you're drunk or hungover - fries and burgers taste good.
The joy of not communicating
A woman sits at a cafe deep in conversation with a friend, her iPhone sits on the table next to her. Soon, a short but natural lull in the conversation; her hand goes straight for the phone to check for new messages, emails, anything. Sound familiar? Our mobile phones are now an extension of self, whereby constant communication is expected. Text messages, emails, Facebook updates and more. It's time to switch off.
Other little joys
* Riding a bike
* Perusing a second-hand bookstore
* Reading a magazine from cover to cover
* Being frivolous and blowing your budget on a pair of shoes
* Buying fresh flowers
* Staying in your pyjamas all day
* The long lunch
* Shooting on Polaroid film