Page 1


Charlize Theron: older, wiser, happier

M AY 2 0 1 6


Charlize THERON On being fearless and finding fulfilment

DRUNK ON LIFE Meet the new soberistas Fallen out of love? The one secret to reconnecting





ELIZABETH GILBERT ‘‘Be creative and curious’’



Simplify your space

TEST: What does your home say about you?

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Charlize Theron “I have always dreamed big and wanted to make the best of my life”


The joy of less


Chris Baréz-Brown introduces ideas that take us off autopilot 27




Martha Roberts looks at how cash affects contentment 28



Could couples therapy reboot your relationship? Beatrice Kerr tells us how it was for her FREE GIFT WORTH


See page 48 for this month’s print and digital subscriptions offers



Morgan helps a man whose long-term relationship is over 34

* DON’T DO WHAT I DID, ASK WHAT I ASKED Ten years on from Eat, Pray, Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert shares wisdom


Anita Chaudhuri is squaring up to her cupboards to find out how her possessions reflect what’s really going on in her life 71


How to simplify – in every area 72


Author and architect Edward Hollis discusses what home means to us 74


Three people tell us about their relationship with their stuff 78


Take our specially commissioned test and find out what your home says about you

M AY 2 0 1 6 P S Y C H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 3







How Lucy Fry decided to quit drinking altogether and turned her life around as a result 42


Oliver Burkeman has advice on how to determine priorities and get more of what matters done 44


Textile designer Fiona Pitkin shows us why her Victorian house is perfect for her creative family 50



Making their job easier could be the best career move you can make, says Suzy Bashford 56


Martha Roberts rediscovers the joy of writing letters. It’s time to pick up pen and paper… 60





Novelist and actor Celia Imrie tells us what is important to her



Eminé Ali Rushton looks at the ethos behind renowned French beauty brand Darphin


Our wise agony aunt advises three readers on their problems


Refresh your make-up for longer, brighter days



Suzy Greaves explains how our online yoga course can transform your life 97


Seek out the reasons to be cheerful

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Fresh, vibrant, tasty, wholesome – new book Savour by Peter Gordon will give you plenty of ideas for when you fancy something lighter 107 NUTRITION NOTES

Eve Kalinik explains why it’s time you tuned into the wellness wonder that is turmeric 108 LET THE LIGHT IN

Discover how Scandinavian style can inspire you to create a sense of calm and comfort 1 16 TR AVEL

Jane Alexander finds Mongolia’s Gobi Desert certainly puts things into perspective for her, while Amerley Ollennu experiences a little movie magic in the Big Apple


If you can’t always find a copy of this magazine, help is at hand. Complete this form and give it to your local shop. They’ll arrange for a copy of each issue to be reserved for you. They may even be able to deliver to your home – just ask!



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OUR TEAM Editor Suzy Greaves Managing Editor Danielle Woodward Acting Art Director Lynne Lanning Associate Editors Anita Chaudhuri, Elizabeth Heathcote Entertainment Editor At Large Lorien Haynes Dossier and The Fix Editor Ali Roff Editorial Assistant Ellen Tout Health + Wellness Director Eminé Ali Rushton Picture Editor Laura Doherty Chief Sub/Production Editor Anne-Claire Heels Thanks this issue to Rachel Woollett, Ali Christie ADVERTISING & PRODUCTION Commercial Manager Emma Doran (01959 543706) Business Development Manager Hayley Mott (01959 543726) Advertising Sales Patricia Hubbard (01959 543514) Advertising Sales Anne Fleming (01959 543716) Sales Executive Leeanne Garrett (01959 543713) Production Supervisor Rachel Dyke (01733 353397) Production Manager Jackie Aubrey Publishing Operations Manager Charlotte Whittaker MANAGEMENT Managing Director Phil Weeden Chief Executive Steve Wright Chairman Steve Annetts Finance Director Joyce Parker-Sarioglu Creative Directors Vicky Ophield and Emma Dublin Retail Distribution Manager Eleanor Brown Audience Development Manager Andy Cotton Subscriptions Marketing Manager Daniel Webb Brand Marketing Manager Rebecca Gibson Events Manager Kat Chappell Events Marketing Manager Sarah Jackson SUBSCRIPTIONS 12 issues of Psychologies are published per annum ● UK annual subscription price: £47.88 ● Europe annual subscription price: £62.99 ● USA annual subscription price: £62.99 ● Rest of World annual subscription price: £68.99 ● UK subscription and back issue orderline: 0333 043 9848 ● Overseas subscription orderline: 0044 (0) 1959 543747 ● Toll-free USA subscription orderline: 1 888 777 0275 ● UK customer service team: 01959 543747; Psychologies Customer Service Team, Kelsey Publishing Ltd, Cudham Tithe Barn, Berry’s Hill, Cudham, Kent TN16 3AG, United Kingdom


Meet three of the people who have taken part in the creation of this issue of Psychologies

Clare Macdonald Stylist and writer

As an experienced stylist, Clare’s work can be spotted in numerous adverts, brochures and magazines. ‘I am a lifelong lover of interiors and I’m fascinated to see the diverse ways in which people decorate their living spaces,’ she says. ‘It was a pleasure to explore textile designer Fiona Pitkin’s charming home and studio for Psychologies. I loved the blended colours of her sumptuous velvet cushions and scarves.’ See more on page 44.

Anna Godeassi Illustrator

Italian illustrator Anna lives and works in Milan, where she produces illustrations, paintings and sculptures. Her versatile skillset has seen her work appear in publications and adverts across the globe, including America and Japan. This month, Anna illustrates our ‘How to manage your manager’ feature on page 50. ‘I chose to paint a funny, metaphoric situation,’ she explains. ‘The boss’s head is represented by a machine with several buttons triggering different emotions.’

Peter Gordon Author and chef

The author of eight cookbooks, Peter owns restaurants across the globe, including London and his native New Zealand. This month, he shares three of his favourite recipes from his new book, Savour: Salads for all Seasons. ‘What I like about salads is that they should suit your mood,’ he says. ‘They can be quick and easy or planned well in advance, with a lot of care and attention.’ Try Peter’s wholesome recipes on page 100.

Find subscription offers on our website: Already a subscriber? Manage your subscription online: DISTRIBUTION & PRINTING William Gibbons, 28 Planetary Road, Willenhall, Wolverhampton WV13 3XT; 01902 730011; Seymour Distribution Ltd, 2 East Poultry Avenue, London EC1A 9PT; 020 7429 4000; Psychologies is published under licence from Psychologies magazine France. Psychologies Magazine is a registered trademark. Copyright ©2002 Psychologies Magazine is a registered trademark and is published monthly by Kelsey Media 2016 © all rights reserved. Kelsey Media is a trading name of Kelsey Publishing Ltd. Reproduction in whole or in part is forbidden except with permission in writing from the publishers. Note to contributors: articles submitted for consideration by the editor must be the original work of the author and not previously published. Where photographs are included, which are not the property of the contributor, permission to reproduce them must have been obtained from the owner of the copyright. The editor cannot guarantee a personal response to all letters and emails received. The views expressed in the magazine are not necessarily those of the Editor or the Publisher. Kelsey Publishing Ltd accepts no liability for products and services offered by third parties. PRIVACY NOTICE Kelsey Publishing Ltd uses a multi-layered privacy notice, giving you brief details about how we would like to use your personal information. For full details, visit uk, or call 01959 543524. If you have any questions, please ask, as submitting your details indicates your consent, until you choose otherwise, that we and our partners may contact you about products and services that will be of relevance to you via direct mail, phone, email or SMS. You can opt out at ANY time via email: or 01959 543524.

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GLOBAL EDITIONS Groupe Psychologies, 2-8 rue Gaston-Rébuffat, 75019 Paris, France. Tel: 01 44 65 58 00 President & CEO, Editorial Director: Arnaud de Saint Simon International Editor-in-Chief: Philippe Romon ( PSYCHOLOGIES FRANCE Editor-in-Chief: Laurence Folléa PSYCHOLOGIES ROMANIA Ringier Magazines, 6 Dimitri Pompeiu Street, Bucharest. Tel: +40 212 03 08 00. Managing Director: Mihnea Vasiliu ( Editor-in-Chief: Iuliana Alexa (iuliana. Advertising Manager: Monica Pop (

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Showing up It’s spring, the perfect time to open windows and let the air and new ideas circulate. But it’s always good to let go of a few things first. In our 18-page Dossier, we’re decluttering and examining our relationship with our stuff. Turn to page 64 to find out how you really feel about the things you fill your life with. ‘Stuffocated’ or joyfully inspired? Our whole issue is an examination of relationships – be it with the boss (read Suzy Bashford’s piece on page 50 on how improving your relationship with your manager may be the best career move you can ever make) or your loved one (turn to Beatrice Kerr’s moving piece on page 28 on what happens when you lose the connection with your husband and father of your children). Is it possible to find a way back? If you’re struggling with this, you might want to sign up to our first Life Labs Practical Wisdom 30-day online course: How to Save Your Relationship. Our wonderful expert, Sarah Abell, gives you practical, achievable ways to reconnect. It’s powerful stuff. (Log on to But whoever you are connecting to, turn to page 34 for wonderful wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, about never giving up. ‘When we try something and it doesn’t work, it hurts,’ she says. ‘But the worst response is to say if this is what it feels like to give 100 per cent, I’ll never do it again. I’ll never trust/love/tell anyone my dreams… Keep showing up. There’s no success more meaningful than being a curious and engaged human being.’ Here’s to showing up! Have a great month.


Join our tribe! Connect with us on our website at and on social media. Share your comments, photos and inspiration on Twitter ( PsychologiesMag), Facebook ( Psychologiesmagazine), and Instagram (

Suzy Greaves Editor, with Oscar the office dog

Viewpoint Let us know what you think of the magazine and each month we’ll publish the best letters STA R LETTER

ALL IS NOT LOST The feature, ‘The Art of Losing Things’ (March), really struck a chord with me. During a difficult time in our marriage, my husband threw out many mementos that had been given to me by my late parents. Although we’ve survived the problems, I vowed I would never forgive him for his thoughtless actions. After reading your feature, I realised that the only person I was hurting was myself, and that I do still have my memories. I have now decided to let go of the feelings of loss that I’d been holding onto and move forward in my life. Thank you. Anne

PHOTO COMPETITION Would you like to showcase your talents in Psychologies? Each month, we ask you to submit a photo on a theme. We’ll print our winner in the next issue of the magazine and on, and the winner gets a prize! The next theme is ‘SPACE’. Send your photo attached in an email, with your address, to pictures@psychologies. by midnight on 30 April.*



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THE WINNER THIS MONTH This is a photo I took of my younger brother in January this year and thought it fitted your theme of ‘love’. One of the strongest forms of love is that which exists between siblings. You fight and get on each other’s nerves and know exactly which buttons to push, but you love them all the same. This type of love is timeless, permanent and something I feel we should never take for granted. Georgia Glenn




I’d like to thank… Dear young mum,


SURPRISE YOURSELF BY SWITCHING OFF After reading the ‘Manage Social Media Wisely’ article (March) I decided to have a social media detox. I started by reducing the amount of times I checked Facebook, but when I then went online to browse, I felt unsatisfied, so I decided to go cold turkey and delete my account. The results have been truly amazing. I feel more confident about my little insecurities. I have embraced my hobbies and even restored my stale relationships, which are now blooming. If anyone else is thinking about a digital detox, I say go for it. You don’t have to go cold turkey, but you just might surprise yourself. Kathy

YOU NEVER FAIL TO HELP I often read your letters page and see people who, like myself, have been moved by Psychologies. I would like to thank you for every word. After reading each issue, I cut out articles, letters and photos from the magazine and stick them into a scrapbook so I can revisit them as I see fit. This collection has helped me so many times and is often passed around my loved ones, when they too need a friendly voice to guide them. You are the friend we all need and you never fail to offer your time, words and help. Thank you. Antonia

I sat watching in awe on the neonatal ward. You so effortlessly cared for your beautiful premature son, looking after his every need – from the tiny blue teddy to the knitted blanket. I could tell each day how pleased you were to bring him a new outfit, how happily you dressed him and held him, showing him to the nurses with pride. Despite being young and alone, with society’s preconceived ideas of young mums, and despite him being born prematurely, you were quietly confident and calm. You inspired me and made me see my situation differently. I also had a premature son, but was finding it difficult to cope. I have another two-year-old son, and I was also older, in a relationship and had more years’ life experience than you, but I learned so much from you that it amazed me. You were not afraid to see him with tubes and masks over his face, worried if he was breathing or if he might stop at any time. You didn’t seem afraid to hold your tiny son – to change him, dress him, feed him through a tube and check his temperature. You made me realise that it was all right if I couldn’t breastfeed and that a bottle was fine. You made me feel brave and ready to take my son home, because you had done it. You did all of this and we never spoke, just smiled a knowing, sympathetic smile. Thank you for making me brave, calm and inspired.

A mother THIS MONTH’S LETTER OF GRATITUDE WINS… A year’s digital subscription to Psychologies, worth £28.99


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the Fix

photograph: cambria grace. ‘For Love’ compiled by Eugene Kim and Alice Yoo of My Modern Met, (Chronicle Books, £14.99)

News i





edited by ALI ROFF






When their photographer stood them up in 1952, Donald and Dorothy Lutz had only one picture of their wedding day. So, in their 61st year of marriage, their grandson’s wife, Lauren Wells, set up a photoshoot inspired by the film Up on Boston’s Old Northern Avenue Bridge and presented them with an album of the photos they’d always dreamed of.

M AY 2 0 1 6 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 13





Want to feel happier today? A new survey of more than 5,000 UK women by the clothing retailer Joe Browns has revealed that we feel wearing red considerably improves our mood because it makes us feel more womanly, powerful and even more likely to take risks. Red not your colour? Purple and pink also ranked highly, while apparently we feel more fun in yellow, and calm in green.

by Caitlin Moran Ebury, £20 Filled with her trademark honest, funny and frank style, Moranifesto is Caitlin Moran’s second collection of writing after 2012’s Moranothology, including her politically charged columns for The Times and other essays on 21st-century life. Moran writes engagingly about serious subjects (London’s housing crisis, online misogyny, FGM, capitalism and sex workers) and entertaining topics (her love for bacon, why she’s given up high heels – ‘I’m tired of being scared of stairs’ – and the joy of musicals) with skill, weaving in deeper truths so they jump out at the reader unexpectedly and have you nodding along in agreement. She also does a good turn in emotional, raw honesty, such as in her Posthumous Letter To My Daughter – it’s clear to see Moran really cares and her passion is infectious. She also talks a lot of sense. DW

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Flower power Flowers have long played a role in our lives, from decoration to gifts, but aside from the joy found in receiving an unexpected bunch, have you ever given a thought to how they make you feel? A university study** delved deep into the power that flowers have on our minds – it found they have the ability to make a room or space they inhabit seem more welcoming and inviting, which in turn encourages us to be more sociable and interact more.

BOOKS TO SOOTHE THE SOUL WE LOVE: A House Full of Daughters (Chatto & Windus, £16.99) OUR FRIENDS AT BBC RADIO 4 TELL US WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS BOOK: ‘This beautifully conceived narrative drew me in immediately,’ says producer Celia De Wolff. ‘Juliet Nicolson is Vita Sackville-West’s granddaughter and, here, she relates how generations of women in her family depended on men, and were, in turn, dependent on their daughters. Juliet tells how they all suffered periods of self-pity and angry isolation. Now a grandmother herself, she examines the pride, passion, resentment, emotional neglect, addiction and loss, and recognises them in her own life. It is a treat of a listen.’ ‘A House Full of Daughters’ by Juliet Nicolson is BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week from 18 April. Abridged by Libby Spurrier and produced by Celia De Wolff for Pier Productions. For a weekly digest of books programmes sign up for the BBC Books newsletter



LATE AGAIN? Why are some of us hopeless timekeepers? Research* has found that often arriving late is not a sign of rudeness or bad planning, but could actually mean that you are prone to being overly idealistic. This optimism causes people to underestimate the duration of a journey or task. Idealists might therefore overlook allowing time for the nitty-gritty, like walking to the car, finding a parking space or queuing for the lift – inadvertently making themselves late.

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70% LEGO THREAT! Have you ever noticed how you pay more attention to living things than inanimate objects – a fox in your garden or a person at a bus stop while you’re stuck in traffic? The reason is we have a natural instinct to identify a living thing that might eat us, or that we can eat. Recent research† shows this even includes Lego figures – we see them as little people!


ESSENTIAL WELLBEING We may think of rest and relaxation when we think of essential oils, but do they have any real effect on our wellbeing? Studies†† show that exposure to aromatherapy oils does lower blood pressure and heart rate, but only for up to an hour. Any exposure over that, and the opposite effect occurs, with our heart rate and blood pressure actually rising! Easy does it then…

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Midnight Special Directed by Jeff Nichols This film takes you on a journey. You aren’t quite sure where you are going at first, but by the time the credits roll you’ll be staring at the screen with wonder. Eight year-old Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) is on the run with his father (Michael Shannon) from a religious cult in Texas. As we get to know the pair, his father constantly tense and Alton seeming much wiser than the usual eightyear-old, we come to realise that there is more to this little boy than first meets the eye. When it transpires that the FBI are after him as well as the cult leader, and his strange powers become apparent, just like his family, you’ll be rooting for him to find where he belongs in the world. With an amazing score, an incredible cast including Kirstin Dunst and Adam Driver, and themes around family and what we sacrifice for the ones we love and the things we believe in, this is a realistic sci-fi movie guaranteed to keep you gripped until the end. AR


‘‘Depression is hard. You can help those who are suffering by just accepting who they are in that moment and gently encouraging them to do things with you. A simple walk is a good start.’’ DR LYNDA SHAW

Dr Lynda Shaw is a cognitive neuroscientist and business psychologist. She will host ‘Understanding Depression’ at The School of Life in London, on 12 May. Book at


happiness book club

How to be…


Vanessa King, positive psychology expert at Action for Happiness, recommends a book every month to improve our happiness levels



ecent research has shown that positive emotions can broaden our perceptions, in much the same way that negative emotions can narrow them. This helps us to see more, respond more flexibly and in new ways, and be more creative. It makes us more open to different ideas or experiences and we feel closer to and more trusting of others. That’s why, this month, I’m recommending Gratitude Works! A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity (Jossey Bass, £13.99) by Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading scientific experts on gratitude and professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis. ‘Processing a life experience through a grateful lens does not mean denying negativity. Instead, it means realising the power you have to transform an obstacle into an opportunity. It means reframing a loss into a potential gain, recasting negativity into positive channels for gratitude,’ he says. His book helps you focus on creating an attitude of gratitude – to celebrate success when it happens, and to reconsider crises with the question: what am I learning? Create a daily practice of intentional gratitude by asking – what am I grateful for today? The book is sprinkled with statistics such as: grateful people have a seven per cent higher income, are more likely to be physically fit, and add seven years to their life expectancy.



● How do you celebrate when things go well in your life? ● Think about a crisis in your life – what positive things did you learn from it? ● What three things are you grateful for right now?


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the great wake up!

See the beauty in everything Chris Baréz-Brown invites you to join us for a year where we stop operating on autopilot and start living a life full of joy and curiosity



hen I am busy I rarely see the world around me in all its perfection. It’s all too easy to spend our time living in our heads and not connecting with the wonder of the world in which we live. Today, slow down, take some deep breaths and make the time to deliberately see the beauty in everything around you. Pick out details that attract you and notice that when we put our full attention into any object, structure, landscape or person, there is always beauty to be appreciated. What might seem mundane or unsightly will actually resonate with our consciousness at some level and make us feel more alive. Alexandra Horowitz in her fascinating book On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes (Scribner Book Company, £18.61) explains: ‘Part of what restricts us seeing things is that we have an expectation about what we will see, and we are actually perceptually restricted by that expectation. In a sense, expectation is the lost

cousin of attention: both serve to reduce what we need to process the world “out there”.’ The more regularly you slow down and make this practice part of your daily life, the easier it will be for you to spot it without having to shift gears dramatically. By seeing more of what is beautiful around you, you will find that a sense of peace and gratitude will always be at your fingertips and therefore more often, you are waking up. Start with just five minutes and see what you get from it.


Author, speaker and Upping your Elvis founder Chris Baréz-Brown has teamed up with Psychologies to create a 12-month-long experiment to help us break our routines. We will introduce the experiments one by one each week and, at the end of the month, review the results.




“I have always

wanted to make the best of my life ” In our profile this month, Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron talks about being in her prime, and growing older and wiser WORDS karen anne overton PHOTOGR APH Yann Rabanier/Modds/Camera Press

She is known

as one of the most outspoken and fiery women in Hollywood, so when Charlize Theron turned 40 last August, there was no way she was going to miss the chance to speak out on society’s absurd attitude towards women getting older. ‘Women find their strength and power in their sexuality, in their sensuality within, through getting older and being secure within that,’ Theron explains emphatically. ‘It’s ironic that we’ve built the beauty world around 20-year-olds, when they have no concept about wisdom, what life is about, having a few relationships under their belt and feeling hardships, to grow into their skin and feel confident

22 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E M AY 2 0 1 6

within themselves and to feel the value of who they are, not because of a man or because of something like that. And I think that’s such a beautiful thing. ‘That’s why I think people say women come into their prime in their 40s. And then for some reason our society just wants to go, “It’s like a dead flower” – it’s like we wilt for some reason. And men are like fine wines – the older they get, the better they get. It’s such a misconception, and it’s such a lost opportunity, because that’s when I think women are really in the true moment of their sensuality.’ This has been something of a trend of late; a quiet revolution of Hollywood women embracing their major >>>

And Theron, who is still considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, has every reason to celebrate, having overcome great heartache to shine as one of Hollywood’s brightest and most enduring stars.

Back from the darkness

“My mother is the strongest woman I’ve ever known. She has always taught me never to dwell on what’s gone wrong in the past”

Theron’s story is well-known: an only child, she grew up on a farm in South Africa with a French father she has characterised as an abusive alcoholic. In 1991, Gerda, her German mother, fatally shot him after he came home in a drunken rage and threatened to kill her and their then-15year-old daughter. This tragedy, far from breaking the actress, has shaped ‘The original Mad Max created such a vivid world… her. She is compassionate, brave and an inspiration to George [Miller] really created a female character that I’ve many. She also admits that the horrific event has proved never read anything like before,’ Theron enthuses. ‘It’s a useful when playing troubled and difficult characters. ‘It enables you to understand darkness and tragedy,’ says really challenging piece of material. Originally I was like, Theron, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of “Uh, I’m not going to play the f*****g girl for Mad Max. Then I read it and I was like, “Oh, Mad Max. I feel sorry for you!”’ serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003’s Monster. Theron is incredible as the shaven-headed, one-armed, ‘But I don’t let my work drag me down into my characters’ problems. I can go deep into a dark character and those one-woman-army, desert warrior – a terrifying force to be kinds of psychological states, then slip back into my normal reckoned with. What’s fascinating about her is the way she life pretty quickly. I’m a happy person and that probably brings power and depth to characters who could otherwise makes it easier for me to go back to my normal self. I also be one-dimensional, yet adds layers of grace and raw beauty hate the idea of making myself miserable and letting that to roles like serial killer Wuornos. It is her complexities that spill over into my life with my friends or colleagues and make her so captivating to watch. spoiling everything that I enjoy about acting Compassion & inspiration and the kind of beautiful life I have.’ the huntsm a n: Away from the camera, Theron’s w inter’s wa r compassion shines through in her Award-winning roles This epic fantasy adventure is humanitarian efforts. She founded Theron has worked consistently since both a prequel and sequel to the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach emerging in the mid-1990s and her eclectic 2012’s Snow White and the Project (CTAOP), which carries on roster of roles has made sure she cannot be Huntsman, and stars Charlize the fight against AIDS, and is also a typecast. In upcoming film The Huntsman: Theron, Emily Blunt, Chris UN Messenger for Peace. Winter’s War, she reprises her role as the Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain. She credits her own mother for wicked queen Ravenna. The film is a follow- Beginning long before the wicked inspiring her: ‘She’s the strongest up to 2012’s Snow White and The Huntsman, queen Ravenna is killed at the woman I’ve ever known and she has this time with Emily Blunt playing her hands of Snow White, it tells the story of the queen’s sister Freya. always been my greatest guide in broken and vengeful sister. When Ravenna destroys her life and taught me never to dwell on Theron’s queen is a glorious evil goddess. sister’s child, Freya gains deadly mistakes or what has gone wrong Ever the chameleon, the role is worlds apart powers over cold and ice and in the past, and move on with life.’ from her recent foray into comedy in Seth builds an army to exact revenge This advice propelled Theron to MacFarlane’s One Million Ways to Die in the on her. Years later, after Queen where she is today, after her mother West. She then went on to play action heroine Ravenna has been killed, Freya persuaded her not to give up on her Imperator Furiosa in last year’s critically resurrects her sister with terrible dream of performing when her initial acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road. One might consequences and needs the hopes of being a ballet dancer were Huntsman and his lover to ensure wonder how she chooses such diverse roles, that good conquers evil. dashed by a knee injury. from comedy turns to out-and-out edgy.

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words: karen anne overton/interview hub. photographs: rex

>>> milestones instead of slinking quietly into the background.


Reprising her role as evil queen Ravenna in The Huntsman: Winter’s War, alongside Emily Blunt as Freya

As renegade warrior Imperator Furiosa in post-apocalyptic film Mad Max: Fury Road

In a lighter role with Seth MacFarlane in comedy Western One Million Ways to Die in the West


At the 2016 Academy Awards ceremony in February RIGHT: In her Oscarwinning role as killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003’s Monster

Theron became a mother for the first time in 2012 when she adopted her son Jackson, now aged three, from her native South Africa, and then again last year, when she adopted eight-month-old daughter August. ‘Nothing makes you understand and hold on to the preciousness of life more than being a parent,’ she says. ‘It’s so vital that young people value themselves and their lives, because their decisions not only shape their own future, but our collective future.’ Theron is currently single, having dated several highprofile men, including, most recently, actor Sean Penn. The relationship ended after a year and a half, but being single doesn’t faze the actress, nor does it worry her that some men may find her too hot to handle.

‘I’ve never tried to be less assertive in order to make a man feel better,’ she explains. ‘I’ve always dreamed big and wanted to make the best of my life. I never wanted to compromise – otherwise I wouldn’t be happy. I’ve always wanted a man who recognises my dreams and goals and appreciates all those aspects of my character, and is confident enough in his own self not to feel threatened by that.’ She may be in her fifth decade, but Theron insists she has more acting opportunities than ever and that Hollywood has finally recognised that actresses ‘don’t just die at 40’. She is living proof that a woman in her 40s can not only be strong and wise, but an acrobatic action star too – and there’s a track record to prove that we definitely haven’t seen everything the versatile actress can do. ‘The Huntsman: Winter’s War’ is released in UK and Irish cinemas on 8 April

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Natural Intimate Moisturiser


} experiment


Fix your finances to feel more content Every month, Martha Roberts invites you to road-test research around feeling good

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Money can’t buy happiness but financial stability can promote a feeling of greater contentment.



Getting a grip on your finances requires planning and being honest about your spending habits.


According to a 2010 YouGov poll, nearly two-thirds of people in the UK worry about money, with almost one in five saying they worry all the time. A 2012 Citizens Advice survey found 74 per cent of people said debt worries were affecting their mental health, with 56 per cent having had a panic or anxiety attack because of it. Of the 1,700 respondents, most owed between £1,000 and £20,000. However, the YouGov poll says, despite this anxiety, just 14 per cent had taken time to identify financial priorities and plan accordingly, while 27 per cent had never drawn up a budget – and one in three were actually counting on winning the lottery. But will money make us happy? Researchers found that when they were asked to consider how happy or satisfied they were as a general rule, people with money were found to be happier. But when asked how happy they were moment-tomoment (eg, how joyful/sad/stressed were you yesterday?) those with money were no more likely to have been happy than those without. Researchers suggest that wealth makes us happy when we’re thinking about our lives but has less of an impact on our feelings as we actually live our lives.

NOW TRY IT OUT ● Keep a spending diary. Little things add up quickly – buy yourself a notepad and write it all down. It’s scary but necessary if you want to discover how you’re spending the pennies and, ultimately, the pounds. ● Plan for the worst. Be realistic about what life can throw at us, such as illness or redundancy. Build up an emergency fund that would cover the minimum of what you spend a month, for three to six months. ● Get rid of debt. Financially happy people slash debt wherever they can, for example by paying credit card bills each month to keep credit scores up. Make the most of zero per cent credit card deals. For debt advice contact the Money Advice Service at ● Find contentment in what you already have. Happiness doesn’t require the latest gizmos, gadgets or fashion-forward piece. People who are financially happy know this and realise that happiness comes from financial stability rather than being on trend.

MARTHA ROBERTS is an award-winning UK health writer and mental-health blogger at



Close encounters Beatrice Kerr and her husband loved one another, but big life challenges and the daily grind had eroded their closeness, and sex was flagging. Could an intimacy workshop change things?


aturday afternoon in a house in Hertfordshire and I find myself doing something I haven’t done in a long time. I’m looking into my husband’s eyes. Not just for a moment, but for 10 whole minutes, as he gazes back into mine. For the first time in months, we’re connecting. I feel love. And as Sam and I look at each other, the intimacy is so intense that I start to cry. We’ve been married for seven years and have two small children, one with a disability. The love and affection we feel for each other have always been strong, but, last autumn, I felt the

intense demands of everyday life were pushing our relationship to the bottom of the priority list. Most nights, after the children fell asleep, I collapsed on the sofa watching TV, while Sam, a musician, disappeared to his study to listen to music. We talked to each other every day, yet I was often irritable with Sam; I wanted time alone, but also felt sad that we weren’t as close as we once were. We hugged and kissed, yet something was missing: intimacy. Tiredness and stress had turned us both off sex; we slept in separate beds because of Sam’s snoring and felt like >>>

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Breaking the ice

As we walked up the path to Priya’s house on Saturday evening, we assured each other that if it was terrible (visions of us being told to undress and make love on the carpet, or having to hum ‘Omm’ for hours), we would run away. To our relief, Priya turned out to be perfectly down-to-earth; a warm, curly-haired mother of two grown children. We nursed cups of tea on the sofa and she broke the ice by telling us about how, as a psychotherapist, she had started running these workshops – both bespoke ones for couples, like this one, and group sessions for several couples at a time. She had noticed how often relationship issues came up for her clients. Couple therapy became her specialism, and she

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trained in tantra and psychosexual issues, she explained.

Acknowledge the positive

It was time to get started with our first exercise. Sam and I took it in turns to, as Priya put it, ‘acknowledge positives’ about each other. I felt myself glow as I listened to Sam say how he loves the way my eyes light up when I smile, that I’m kind, and a good mother. These were all things I knew deep down that my husband

You two are a “team. Drop your expectations of each other; your only mission is to be close to each other

appreciated, but to hear him say them out loud created a feeling of bonding. I couldn’t wait for my turn to compliment his rock-like presence in a crisis, as well as his intellect, his originality and his sense of humour. Sam and I were now holding hands and smiling at each other. We told Priya about the shared interests that initially brought us together, and everything we’d been through. Priya remarked on how much loss we had experienced and we discussed how the fun seemed to have drained away with so many responsibilities and challenges. I explained how I grumpily pushed Sam away when he approached me – I wanted something more from Sam, a grand gesture of passion, and he needed me to be gentler and kinder. We spent half an hour sitting very close together, our legs entwined,

gazing into each other’s eyes as music played, and gently stroking each other’s faces. When I heard panpipes, I knew Sam would be groaning inside and I worried he would switch off yet, miraculously, he didn’t let it bother him. In each other’s eyes we found the tenderness we had both been missing, and as my tears fell, an unexpected transformation happened. ‘We’ were back. The Sam and Beatrice we used to be. We left the session uplifted, with a fresh feeling hovering between us. Our negative pattern already felt broken. We continued the next morning. Facing each other, we maintained eye contact as we voiced what we find attractive in each other. I was touched to hear Sam compliment various parts of my body I didn’t know he still noticed. We then took it in turns to stroke each other from head to toe – we were so relaxed that we weren’t even worried about Priya being there. In fact, having a witness to make the exercise structured and formal was the catalyst we needed – as Sam usually keeps quiet about his emotions. ‘Sex is a loving, deep connection most of us want,’ Priya explained, ‘but sex needs and loves intimacy.’ Intimacy, she added, depends on honest communication.

Crossing the bridge

Our next guided exercise was called ‘crossing the bridge’. Facing each other again, one of us volunteered to ‘cross the bridge’ of our relational space to ‘visit’ the other. I felt the impulse to visit Sam, and first I needed to ask Sam formally if that was all right. I had to leave all my mental baggage on my side of the bridge and then ‘cross over’ to him with a completely open mind. Then, Sam was asked to choose one thought or issue he would like

PHOTOGRAPHS: gallerystock

the general exhaustion of bringing up a family and trying to earn enough money to live on, our life together had been through some major challenges. Our eldest child was born with health problems and his first years were full of medical crises. Then, just as his health finally started to improve and I became pregnant with another baby, Sam’s mother fell very ill and died a year ago. Was it any wonder, then, that we both felt emotionally drained – too worn out to have even a proper conversation? I desperately wanted to reconnect, to feel that passion and togetherness we once had. So, having stumbled across the idea of intimacy workshops, I found one that didn’t seem too hippy-dippy, held over a weekend in the home of relationship therapist Priya Tourkow. I asked Sam if he would do it. As one of life’s cynics, he cringed at the idea, but he agreed to give it a try.

>>> ships passing in the night. On top of


We were back. The Beatrice and Sam we used to be. We left the session uplifted. Our negative pattern already felt broken

to share with me, in a word or two. He thought for a while and then said ‘volatility’. Priya asked him to explain, simply, what this meant to him, focusing on himself (using words like ‘I feel’ rather than ‘You do this’). As we maintained eye contact, Sam went on to talk, bit by bit, about how he was affected by my grumpy moods, and his need for more creativity and lightness in the midst of the daily grind. I wasn’t allowed to interrupt while he was speaking. Every time Sam delivered a ‘chunk’ of information, he was asked to pause. Then I had to summarise what I had heard him say – not responding, or adding anything – simply acknowledging that I had understood what he was expressing. Next it was Sam’s turn to ‘cross the bridge’ and listen to me. My word was ‘initiative’ and I found myself expressing something I hadn’t ever grasped before, which is that I would

be less grumpy if Sam took more initiative in our life. We felt we were communicating deeply and reached the core of our relationship issues. Finally, we talked also about practical things such as how we could reduce Sam’s snoring and sleep in the same bed again. I asked how we could keep this revived spark alive. ‘The key is to build on what you already have that’s good,’ said Priya, ‘and add in more. Affection leads to intimacy –

talking about feelings – which leads to sensuality, which leads to sexuality. You two are a team – drop your expectations of each other; your only mission is to be close to each other.’ A month later we are still feeling that new closeness. I am less volatile, and Sam is taking more initiative, although we have also taken in that what we demand and expect from each other is less important for our bond than simply the honesty of communicating: expressing feelings and truly listening. It’s working; we are no longer bickering, and feel united. We smile more and laugh more; we’re even starting to get intimate again physically. It feels like this is only the beginning of our new life as a couple. • For more information, go to • Get a free three-day trial of our new Life Labs

Practical Wisdom course, How to Save Your Relationship, at life-labs-online-courses

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“I didn’t realise I was bottling things” up’’ Our award-winning coach Kim Morgan helps a man come to terms with the end of a long-term relationship


Acknowledging pain

Ben* came to see me about his relationship break-up. He was a polite, kind, young man who had plucked up the courage to come to see me because he was feeling as though his whole life had ended. Ben and his girlfriend had been childhood sweethearts; they had gone to university together, got great jobs, bought their first house and fixed a wedding date. Everybody thought of them as the perfect couple. Recently, however, his girlfriend had told him that she had met someone else. She moved out of their house and in with her new man almost immediately. She had even taken the cat. Ben had been left to cancel all the wedding plans and to let everyone know. He found himself alone in a house full of memories.

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‘I feel as though I’ve lost everything,’ he told me. ‘She has abandoned me and so has everyone else. Nobody seems to realise how alone and sad I feel. After a couple of months my friends stopped asking how I was; they expect me to be over it by now. People don’t want me around because I am so miserable, and I will go crazy if anyone else suggests that I try internet dating.’ Throughout the session Ben displayed so many emotions: anger, shock, disbelief, pain, sadness and confusion. I just listened to Ben that day – and in fact I just listened to Ben in every coaching session we had over the next four months. I knew that reliving the event was helping him to come to terms with what had happened with the relationship and to understand that his life would never be the same as it had been before.




THE LIFE LAB } Kim Morgan

Coaching session


Do it yourself

Four months on – in limbo

I reviewed the case with my supervisor. Ben had not moved on at all and I was ashamed to admit I was feeling a bit frustrated by him. He was young, healthy, successful and had lots of opportunities ahead of him. He wasn’t ill, hadn’t been disabled, wasn’t homeless and nobody had died. My supervisor invited me to consider that loss is loss. If we are separated from something we hold dear, which we feel forms part of our identity, then we will experience grief. These feelings are completely natural responses to a significant change in our lives. Many life changes, including the loss of a loved one, a job, our health, our role in life or our independence will provoke feelings of grief. We also mourn what might have been, as we experience a loss of our hopes, dreams and plans for the future. Everybody has their own unique response to loss, and everybody takes a different length of time to move through it. I resolved to put aside my own need for ‘results’ and to allow Ben the time and space to come to terms with the new reality of his life before expecting him to start again.

Coaching session


One year on – acceptance

Slowly but surely, Ben started to accept his new reality. He wondered why it had taken him so long and been so hard for him. I wondered if he would discover anything about this by revisiting other losses he had experienced. Ben’s parents had split up when he was young and he hadn’t seen his father since. His mother hadn’t ever spoken to him about what was happening – he had simply been sent off to boarding school with no prior warning or explanation. He had learned to bottle up his emotions and ‘get on with it’. He now realised that when his girlfriend had left him, this had also made him think about other losses that he had never really addressed. When loss occurs, it can have a cumulative effect – particularly if you have unresolved grief about other losses. Ben revisited his feelings about all the losses, including the loss of the cat which his girlfriend had taken with her! Ben was proud of himself for having contacted me in the first place to face up to the pain of his loss. In doing so he had overcome his childhood habit of bottling up feelings and had become quietly confident that he would eventually create a new and different future for himself. He told me he now felt more prepared and ready for the rest of his life, with all its inevitable highs and lows. For more from Kim, go to

Powerful exercises to try at home The Gift of Time and Attention l Most people don’t know what to do or say when someone is grieving. You can help others to help you by asking them for the simple gift of their time and attention. l Ask someone you trust if they will allow you to speak, without interruption, about your thoughts and feelings. l Let them know that they do not need to find solutions, make you feel better or come up with suggestions. Tell them they don’t need to feel bad about you feeling bad – it’s just how it is for you at the moment. l Tell them you will ask them if you would like them to contribute. Otherwise all you require is their warmth, interest, attention and listening – that is their only responsibility. l Tell them that telling and re-telling the story is helping you make sense of your loss. l Thank them for ‘just’ listening. Write a letter you will never send When you feel ready, write a letter for yourself to the person or ‘thing’ you have lost. Choose lovely writing paper and a nice pen. You may find yourself writing to an ex-partner, your old job, a loved one, a house, a pet, an aspect of health. In the letter write about the following: l All the happy memories of your time together. l What you most valued about them. l What you might have done better and what they might have done better. l How you are feeling now. l The ways in which their influence will continue in your life. l An acceptance that you can’t turn back the clock and change what has happened. Keep the letter somewhere safe and revisit it from time to time, adding more thoughts, feelings and memories as they occur to you. This exercise will help you to honour what has gone before and integrate this part of your life into what will be your future. Remember that you cannot rush the process of getting over the loss of something that has been precious to you and be kind to yourself.

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wise woman

‘‘Don’t do what I did,

ask what I asked’’ It’s 10 years since Elizabeth Gilbert wrote global bestseller Eat, Pray, Love. Here, she talks to our editor Suzy Greaves about the hard-earned life lessons she now lives by

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from ‘unpublished diner waitress’ to prize-winning short story writer and on to best-selling memoirist to novelist. Her latest book Big Magic (Bloomsbury, £14.99) – a self-development book on how to be creative – was an instant global bestseller last year and the book I bought everyone for Christmas. Why? Because my friends are right. Gilbert is the sort of woman we want on our team. She’s wise, authentic and brave, and believes creativity will save our souls and the world. She refuses to be pigeon-holed and literally walks her (TED) talk on channelling her creative genius. Here, I try to tap into that genius and ask her to give us her best life advice garnered over the last decade.


Forget about being fearless, and be curious about things instead I wouldn’t recommend being fearless. I’ve met a few people who are fearless and they tend to be sociopaths or three year olds. I suggest we get more curious. The great thing about curiosity – you can do it in tiny doses and get such huge results. If you can wake up every single day and ask yourself ‘what tiny little thing am I curious about?’ and allow yourself to follow it even for a quarter of an inch, it will improve your life. >>>

PHOTOGRAPH: steve schofield/contour by getty images


ecause of my job, I get to meet lots of inspirational people – I am very lucky. But when I told friends I was to interview Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love (Bloomsbury, £8.99) there was an outpouring of affection. ‘We love her!’, and ‘I watch her TED talk all the time’, and ‘Ask if we can adopt her as our new best friend!’ came the responses. I am also a big fan of Eat, Pray, Love, charting Gilbert’s journey from leaving her husband and going on a spiritual odyssey, eating pizza in Naples to finding God in India and love in Bali. It got me through my own divorce and gave me hope. But I find her determined writing journey equally as inspirational –


Be thankful for fear

I’m a very fearful person but I have learned to thank fear: ‘I understand you’re trying to protect me. You’re the ultimate bodyguard of my life.’ We don’t appreciate how fear has kept us alive this long. We’re all here because, at some point, our fear said ‘Don’t get in the car with that guy; don’t walk down that street; don’t go into the water – you’re not a strong enough swimmer.’ We owe our fear our lives. Start by saying ‘thank you, I appreciate all the ways you’ve saved my life. (But right now I don’t need you; I’m just trying to write poetry!).’ Create an ongoing friendship with fear.


5 3

I believe you “have to keep

showing up. There is no success more meaningful than being a curious and engaged human being

2 wise woman

Stop waiting for a guarantee

Stop looking so hard for certainty There are paradoxes and uncertainty, and as long as we keep looking for rules that will hold us safe from paradox and uncertainty, the more anxious we’ll feel.

Be patient with yourself

You don’t have to make a huge leap to make changes in your life. Everyone’s looking for the lightning strike, the epiphany, the-Moses-and-the-burningbush moment. There is something very dramatic and exciting about that. But it doesn’t often happen. It’s more like a trail of breadcrumbs – it’s a scavenger hunt. I know people have read Eat, Pray, Love and see this big, dramatic journey, but there were three years of a collapsing marriage before I did anything. It wasn’t as if I came home one day, and slammed the door very cinematically and walked out with a squeal of tyres on the gravel drive. I cried every single day for three years, looking for other solutions, and cried for three years after. We all want the short cut. We long for ‘aha’ moments when we are given the answer. And yes, they do come. But then you still have to fix the 20 things that need to be fixed. What we need more than anything is patience and self-forgiveness – as well as being able to forgive others – because change is not an easy thing to do.

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I met a woman recently who wanted to start writing a book but was having trouble believing that the universe would actually give her the result that she wanted – a publishing deal. It might not, I said to her. There is no certainty. You do not know where the adventure is going to take you. If you want to know how the adventure ends, you’re never going to start it. ‘But what if I go on an adventure and find nothing?’ people ask. Show me when that ever happens. Please bring me the person who went on a sincere and open-hearted search and found nothing out about themselves. You may not find what you wanted to find – however, you will definitely know a great deal more about yourself at the end of the journey than at the beginning. Don’t avoid going on that journey because you might be disappointed. Who among us has been spared disappointed or frustration? It’s part of the journey.

Know the difference between quitting and surrendering

Quitting and surrender are two very different things. Quitting sounds like ‘I don’t feel like it, I’d rather watch Downton Abbey. It’s hard, I’m bored.’ Surrendering sounds like ‘I’ve come to the end of my power and have nothing else I can do and nothing else to give.’ Some of the most shameful experiences of my life came from quitting. The most beautiful experiences of my life came from surrendering. When you surrender, you recognise that you’re not the most powerful force in the universe; you let go and accept whatever happens next.



Be a creator, not just a bystander In my latest book Big Magic, I encourage everyone to find some creative outlet. A journalist interviewed me and asked: ‘Aren’t you afraid that your book is going to cause lots of people who have no talent to create lots of shitty art?’ The arrogance of that question is staggering. There’s a presumption that only an elite are allowed to be creative. My concern is not that the world is filled with bad art, it’s more that the world might be filled with people who are not making or creating things in their life – and are just consumers or bystanders who are passively allowing things to happen to them.


keep showing up Stop waiting and find your tribe

Someone recently asked how to find a mentor. When I started out, I created a peer group and I think a peer group can help you more than a mentor. If you get people together who are powerless, unsuccessful and striving, and you show up for each other then you become your own mentor group. That same group who all had crappy jobs and all wanted to be writers – like me – are still the first people who read my manuscripts 20 years later. If your tribe doesn’t exist yet, you may need to be the person to found the group. You might be the tribal leader. If the thing you need doesn’t exist, create it. That’s the ultimate creativity.


When we try and don’t succeed, it hurts. But the worst response is ‘If this is what it feels like to give 100 per cent, I’ll never do it again. I’ll never trust/tell anyone my dreams/ love’. If you say that, what’s the rest of your life to be? You’re going to be in death’s waiting room, paying bills till your time’s up. If you can have happy moments, you’re not done yet. Keep showing up. There’s no success more meaningful than being a curious and engaged human being.

You do not know “where the adventure is going to take you. If you want to know how the adventure ends, you’re never going to start it


wise woman

Don’t do what I did, ask what I asked

Many people write for advice on replicating the Eat, Pray, Love journey. They believe the geographical journey will give them the same result. What’s the name of the Naples pizzeria, they ask? But it’s not about pizza, it’s about the questions we ask. Ask, what do I want to do with my life? What do I want more of? Less of? When was I happiest? What was I doing then? Who makes me feel the world is full of possibilities? Who doesn’t? Ask the right questions; become a scientist of your own experience.

The 10th anniversary edition of the international bestseller ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ (Bloomsbury £8.99) is out on 7 April with a new forward by Elizabeth Gilbert. ‘Eat, Pray, Love made me do it: Life Journeys inspired by the best-selling memoir’ (Bloomsbury, £8.99) is out on 5 May.

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on life

Imagine a fun, joy-filled big night out – without the killer hangover the next morning. Could the new Soberista trend transform your life? Lucy Fry talks us through her journey


inking into the bed; I feel absolutely exhausted and quite melancholic. I’ve woken up too early with a sour taste in my mouth and a heaviness in my brain. ‘Not again,’ I think. I berate myself for yet again allowing ‘just one’ post-work drink turn into a bottle so that now, next morning, I’m wishing away my day. It’s been the same every morning for months. But something’s different now. I’ve tried moderation; it doesn’t work for me. It’s time to change once and for all – to cut booze out of my life. That was five years ago and perhaps seen as a dramatic move. However, nowadays more of us are giving up alcohol for good. Two million people took part in Alcohol Concern’s Dry January this year and the Office of National Statistics says the average person drinks around 40 per cent less than in 2004 (one in five doesn’t drink at all). And it’s not just binge-drinking either – more of us are questioning

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photograph trunk ARCHIVE

the need for a nightly glass, as our definition of moderate drinking shifts. This even applies to the one remaining alcoholic bastion of health – red wine – since new guidelines from the Department of Health declared the benefits for heart health only apply to women over 55 (and just five units or two 175ml glasses, a week). It is bringing the recommended male limit in line with women’s due to new links between alcohol, cancer and heart disease, and advising at least two to three alcohol-free days a week. It begs the question: how will we view alcohol in 10 or 20 years? Will it be like tobacco – once everyone smoked, now smokers are practically social pariahs. When I stopped drinking half a decade ago, I cowered in the pub, pretending my lime and soda was a G&T for fear of being teased or shamed into having a ‘real’ drink. But there are at least a couple of non-drinkers at every occasion I attend now – the hungover look no longer passes as fun

or fashionable at work. Then there’s health to consider. Like me, many of my friends are more interested in the healing properties of kale than new cocktails. Even celebrities are more likely to be photographed falling out of a yoga pose than a club these days, with Tyra Banks, Kim Catrall and Jennifer Lopez all speaking up about their decision not to drink.

Something changed…

For me, deciding on a life without alcohol wasn’t a matter of trend or aesthetics. To my circle, my boozing was normal. I was in my late twenties and drinking had been an integral part of my upbringing and the world I worked and socialised in. And as I gravitated towards those with similar habits, it didn’t seem unusual. But under the surface things were growing turbulent. Late hedonistic nights wiped out the entire next day. I often cancelled work or social plans because of massive hangovers. Soon it wasn’t >>>


– more if I went out with hard-drinking friends. My body felt ragged; my mood was increasingly erratic. Though I didn’t always realise it, I used alcohol to shut out my anxiety and self-consciousness in a crowd – to help me quieten negative thought loops in my head. Each morning I’d wake up groggy and promise myself that I wouldn’t drink later, yet by 7pm after work and the gym I’d reward myself with a wine purchase, promising that tomorrow was the day I’d stop. And stop I did – once for five whole weeks. But these periods of enforced teetotalism only enhanced the issue; they became part of a mental obsession with alcohol. I counted the days I abstained, and when I restarted, I binged, ending up in a demoralising cycle of determination and defeat that rendered my relationship with alcohol even more unhealthy. My partner could take or leave booze, would often leave a half glass unfinished and couldn’t tell you how many days it was since her last drink as she genuinely hadn’t noticed. Should it really be this hard, I wondered? Are other people struggling in the same way? By 28 I began to wonder if I had a problem; by 29 I was sure I did. Every month, my standards slipped. I’d already done things (like drink and drive, or drink alone in secret) that I had promised myself I’d never do. Ironically, the habit that had begun socially as a teenager was now causing me to isolate. It affected my finances, friendships, work, my relationship, and my mental health.

Giving it up

Eventually, two months off 30, I sought professional help and began the process of getting sober. The first step was to admit I had no power whatsoever over alcohol, and that my life (if I drank) became unmanageable. After that, I had to connect with

40 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E M AY 2 0 1 6

I began to feel the liberation of not needing a substance to determine my moods

>>> one nightly glass but two, then a bottle

others who were going through similar experiences and develop a support network of non-drinkers whom I could share feelings with and call on when cravings hit. The initial benefits were incredible. After two to three weeks my energy increased and after two to three months I felt my mind more focused. After the first year of sobriety, the cravings reduced and by the end of the second year were uncommon. But in some ways that was only the start: I now began to tackle the emotional symptoms – sadness, frustration, lack of self acceptance and a desire to just let go – that had caused me to first seek refuge at the bottom of a bottle. Now I started to be curious about these, and look for coping strategies that didn’t involve alcohol. Some days were

tumultuous, and I had to sit tight and trust that it would pass, but slowly I began to feel a freedom I never had – the liberation of not needing a substance to determine my moods. Interestingly, it’s not just those who take on more than the recommended weekly intake that can experience the benefits. Six months ago my 40-yearold sister, who drank just one glass of wine most nights, also kicked the habit. I was surprised, as to me she seemed abstemious – never out-of-control drunk and usually content with one glass. Yet she said she still felt bound to the bottle, willing the children to g o to bed each night so she could relax with a warming glass of red. Having stopped, she said, her health and wellbeing have improved more dramatically than she’d expected given how little she actually drank. These days she sleeps better, wakes up with a clear head and has more sustained energy levels. She’s able to be more present with her children and more emotionally in tune with herself. She’s pretty sure, she says, that she won’t go back to drinking now. I’m hopeful I won’t either.

Helpful support networks and alcohol-free activities l Soberistas is a

website and online community for non-drinkers. It was founded in 2012 and now has 35,000 members. Its purpose, explains founder Lucy Rocca, is to offer people a chance to share freely with like-minded others. ‘I know from my own decades of heavy alcohol consumption that those who can’t control their drinking

often feel as though they can’t tell anyone about their problem. Soberistas is a place to offload, and this is often the starting point for moving forward to a healthier and happier place without alcohol.’ @soberistas, l JoinClubSoda is a free educational website to help you find online support and make the changes you

need around alcohol. @joinclubsoda, l Sober Disco. Just because you don’t drink doesn’t mean you don’t want to dance either! Try fitness classes like Clubbercise (, movement classes like 5 Rhythms (5rhythms. com) and even a sober morning rave, Morning Gloryville (morning

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} experiment WOR K

Why less adds up to more Every month, Oliver Burkeman invites you to improve your work life





It can be hard to imagine getting more done by working less. But going into overdrive means that you forget important tasks; never get time to think; and your anxiety stresses your workmates. Slowing down, if you do it right, isn’t just a happier way to live – you’ll do your job better, too.



Stop expecting that going slower will feel pleasant, because at first, it won’t. You’ll be tempted to speed up again to make the anxiety go away. Instead, accept the feelings; then try specific techniques. Take your full lunch break. Instead of powering through a list, decide how long you’ll give to an activity, set a timer, see what you can do – then stop. Make firm after-work plans; you’re more likely to finish on time if someone’s expecting you. And if your boss demands the impossible, be polite but firm: if she wants you to make some new task your top priority, it’s only fair to ask what you should de-prioritise, to make room.

NOW TRY IT OUT Start small: If your office runs on adrenaline, you can’t expect to become a Zen master overnight. Aim for a small oasis of slowness. For example: could you book a meeting room for two hours per week, for quiet focus by yourself? ● Stop and feel your feelings: We are conditioned to respond to anxiety by springing into action. However, the next time you feel that tightness in your stomach, try to feel it without pushing it away. You might still decide to act – but you will be doing so less automatically. ● Prioritise – then prune: List your tasks for the day by importance, As, Bs and Cs, then give up hope of getting to the Bs or Cs. We chronically underestimate how long things take. You’ll work much more effectively when you honestly face that fact. ●

OLIVER BURKEMAN is the author of ‘The Antidote: Happiness For People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking’ (Canongate, £8.99)



Being overwhelmed is only part of the problem. The other, says psychologist Stephanie Brown, is that we’re addicted to urgency. We navigate our workdays not by doing what matters, but what makes us feel like we’re crossing things off. And modern life is full of things that deliver this feeling yet aren’t useful: checking email nine times an hour; doing endless web ‘research’; arranging a meeting when what’s really called for is quiet thinking. So by trying to feel useful, you end up missing important stuff and depleting your energy. But because we are addicted to speed, slowing down makes us anxious and self-conscious about what others may think.

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my home

‘These scarves are inspired by the Hollywood couture of the 1920s and 30s’

‘Every time I open my paint cupboard, I have a feeling of anticipation!’

“Colours can really change our moods” A Victorian house in North London is the perfect backdrop for textile designer Fiona Pitkin and her creative family WORDS CLARE MACDONALD PHOTOGR APHS PENNY WINCER

FIONA PITKIN’S STUDIO IS a riot of colour swatches and fabric samples. ‘When I was a little girl, I would spend hours making clothes for my dolls,’ remembers Fiona. ‘I loved searching for pretty, coloured scraps of fabric and scouring magazines for dress patterns. My father was a design engineer, and my mother was always knitting or sewing, so I was surrounded by creativity.’ Fiona’s passion for fabrics was identified at school and she was advised to take up textile design. ‘There was so

44 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E M AY 2 0 1 6

much else going on in the 80s though,’ she reminisces. ‘I was seduced by the flamboyant clothes and music. So I chose a degree in fashion.’ After designing a beachwear collection based on Hollywood 1930’s bathing beauties, her work was spotted by Browns, who were interested in future collections. ‘At this point, I realised I was going to need a huge amount of help and investment in pursuing this line of work, so I decided to concentrate on designing and sourcing clothes for films and

commercials in Hollywood. I loved trawling Los Angeles for vintage garments,’ says Fiona. ‘My favourite haunt was The Rose Bowl, a fabulous market full of gorgeous dresses.’ Fiona had first experimented with silk painting during a Matisse-inspired project at college, and in between her film work, she continued fabric painting, producing beautifully opulent scarves, which sold at Harrods and Barneys New York. ‘At this point, I was working from a basement flat,’ says Fiona, ‘but a large >>>

It’s important to Fiona to have an inspirational space to work in, and her light-filled studio is the perfect place to experiment with colour and fabrics

‘The colour for the kitchen units and the seating area came from the Rothko painting ‘‘Red on Maroon’’ – it took us several attempts to get the colour right ’

ABOVE AND LEFT Fiona’s afternoons are spent in the studio, brushing the rich pigments onto screens and then fixing the painted fabrics by steaming them RIGHT She is inspired by nature’s beautiful and unusual colour combinations, such as blooming and fading flowers, and the wings of butterflies and birds, and collects swatches and pictures for inspiration

my home

LEFT AND BELOW Fiona’s home is filled with treasured personal mementos. ‘Found’ objects and family artworks adorn stairwells, shelves and windowsills, while the cushions in the living space are her own design

‘I have always loved collecting vintage garments and textiles, so trawling the flea markets and second-hand shops in LA was a real delight ’ >>> order from Bergdorf Goodman meant

moving to a bigger studio space.’ Fiona’s husband, Osbert, whom she met at college, also requires a home studio. ‘We’re lucky enough now to have two studios on the ground floor,’ Fiona explains. ‘Osbert’s work as a film and animation director means he’s out all day, and uses his studio in the evenings, whereas I work during school hours. Sharing our space works well, although it can get noisy if we’re in the studios at the same time,’ laughs Fiona. ‘I’m always asking Osbert to turn the music down!’ It’s important to Fiona that the studio and living areas are separate. ‘I like to leave the studio and take refuge in a homely environment,’ she confides. ‘If I get stressed, I go up to the kitchen for a spot of baking.’ For Fiona, the kitchen is

the ‘heart’ of the house. ‘We chose the deep crimson [for the seating] to remind us of a favourite restaurant in Notting Hill – cosy but glamorous,’ says Fiona. ‘Colours can really change our moods. They can make us feel alive and focused, or negative and stressed. I find browns really energy-sapping, red enlivening, and dusty pink soothing,’ she explains. ‘Colour has huge psychological impact.’ Fiona’s current work involves taking commissions for her sumptuous velvet scarves and cushions. After walking the couple’s two teenage children to the bus stop in the mornings, she then spends time answering customer queries and giving advice on colour choices. ‘I get much more done now the children are a bit older,’ she confesses. ‘It was a struggle when they were toddlers.’

Colour has always been important for Fiona. ‘I have childhood memories of the colours of the Outer Hebrides. The soft hues of the heather, and the blues and greys of skies and seas feature often in my work.’ There is romanticism in Fiona’s use of colour, but she is also drawn to dramatic shades. ‘I love the use of colour in the Technicolor film The Red Shoes,’ she says. ‘The vivid, intense red is used as a powerful metaphor.’ All around Fiona’s home, a bright collection of eclectic treasures reflects the family’s artistic nature. ‘One of my favourites is a collage by my daughter,’ says Fiona. ‘I love being surrounded by personal things at home. It makes me feel happy and content.’ To see Fiona’s work, visit and

M AY 2 0 1 6 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 47



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M AY 2 0 1 6 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 49

xxxxxxxx work

How to

manage your


Helping your boss look brilliant – and making their job easier – could be the best career move you ever make. Suzy Bashford explains how This mind-shift can be hard to get your head around, but it’s worth trying. The need to manage up is on the rise, driven by workplace changes such as the end of job-for-life security and the erosion of rigid hierarchies, meaning individuals increasingly need to take more control of their careers. ‘Approach managing up, especially of a new boss, like you’re going on a blind date,’ says psychologist Dr Sandi Mann, who has published a second edition of her book Managing Your Boss in a Week (Teach Yourself, £7.99) due to a resurgence in demand. ‘You want to suss them out, impress them, make

What people often don’t get is that managing up is about making life better for you


istening to my friend keep saying that she couldn’t believe what an idiot she’d been, I felt for her. Having spent hours helping her boss prepare for an important meeting, he aced the presentation, but failed to acknowledge her contribution at all. ‘I should have told the big cheeses those were my ideas!’ she said. ‘Instead, I just smiled and gushed about the great job he’d done. I like my boss, but I don’t like that he takes all the credit for my hard work and I don’t get anything back.’ Yet according to leadership experts, what my friend did in selflessly making her boss look good is the most careerenhancing move you can make. There’s even a term for it: ‘managing up’. By helping your boss succeed, even if you don’t share the glory, you’re proactively navigating your relationship with them so they feel positively to­ wards you. Ultimately your career, not to mention your wellbeing at work, will thrive.

ILLUSTR ATIONs anna godeassi

them happy and create a mutually beneficial relationship. What people often don’t get is that managing up is about making life better for you.’

First things first

The first step in managing your boss is building up your confidence in your strengths and sense of self. That is because, explains career coach and BBC Radio and Music head of business operations Barbara Greenway, you have to be ‘ready psychologically’ before you tackle this all-important, career-defining relationship. ‘You have to start from the inside, before going out,’ she says. ‘Women, in particular, have to remind themselves what they do well. When they do this, their energy rises, they’re in a more positive frame of mind and so that means they can take positive action.’ Greenway often recommends that her mentees devote significant time to considering their strengths and values >>>

F E B R U AMRAY Y 22001166 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 51


pointing them to online resources such as Once you have a good handle on how you really tick, not just a superficial understanding of your tendencies – turn your attention to understanding your boss at a deeper level, too. While experts agree on the importance of this, they recommend many ways to do it. You can physically sit in a different chair at work and imagine you are your boss. Shadow them for a day. Psychologically profile them through online and offline tools. Or you can, advises Karen Meager, psychotherapist and author of Real Leaders for the Real World (Panoma Press, £12.99) ask questions like: ‘What floats their boat? Is it getting recognised? Is it doing a quality job? Do they care about teamwork? You need to look behind what they say they want and observe their behaviour on a day-to-day basis. If they say respect is important but treat people badly, it’s not really important. Observe what they spend time on. What takes priority? What things or people will they drop easily – or not?’

Knowledge is power

Once you’re armed with knowledge, you can then determine your communication style to get the best out of the relationship. The tricky part is that, although we might know that our boss has a different view of the world, we still often unconsciously expect them to intuitively understand ours, as our outlook is so embedded. If they don’t, we grow frustrated, and this can lead to misunderstandings. And, given that their boss is the number one reason people give for leaving jobs, I’ll wager misunderstandings are rife. Reminding yourself that roughly only 15 per cent of people share your basic personality type can help reduce frustration and increase empathy, says Will Murray, founder of personality profiling cards Packtypes (see panel,

52 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E M AY 2 0 1 6

right). So can remembering that if you remain in a fixed mindset, benign misunderstandings are more likely to grow into malignant disagreements. Because of the power dynamic, the less senior person can become the ‘victim’ and blame the evil/power-hungry/ incompetent (delete as appropriate) boss for everything. ‘But nobody is a victim. Your boss only has control of your attitude if you let them,’ Murray says. ‘Anybody can make the first move to improve a relationship. You’re just as well placed as your boss.’ The best way to prevent misunderstandings is through regular feedback; little and often is better than the stress,

Anybody can make the first move to improve a relationship. You’re just as well placed as your boss

>>> before even attempting to manage up,

pressure and often inefficacy of an annual review. Striking the right tone can be, admittedly, difficult – if you’re too confrontational you seem aggressive, if you’re not authoritative enough you may seem weak and whingey. ‘What you’re aiming for is nurturingly assertive,’ says Shaun Thomson, CEO of Sandler Training. ‘You’re not being confrontational or critical. You are not being childlike or walked-over. But you are communicating with them in the way they like because you’ve taken time to understand the type of person they are. Be structured, concise, and plan what you say and the desired result. Be authentic, not just in your words, in your body language, too.’ Many of us struggle to manage up as we lose perspective and assume the worst. But often a boss’s behaviour isn’t personal; in the current climate of job cuts and slashed budgets, it’s likely

to be survival. A little compassion can go a long way to improve your relationship and, in the worst cases, prevent the last resort of quitting.

A view from the top

James Innes, chairman of The CV Centre and author of a raft of books on career management, had an epiphany when he became a boss. Up until then he’d always vowed to do his damnedest not to be like his ‘incompetent, annoying’ former bosses. But the view from the top wasn’t quite what he expected, as he found himself overwhelmed by conflicting pressures, priorities and people, all vying for his limited time. ‘I’m not an idiot, though I may look like one sometimes,’ he jokes. ‘I haven’t forgotten my vow, but I fear I might appear inefficient sometimes because I can’t look into every issue in the detail others would like me to. My advice is yes, manage up. Don’t harass. See the bigger picture. And learn to be a little Zen about the relationship; don’t take everything personally, otherwise it makes for a very unhappy working life and, if it gets to that, there’s something to be said for getting out.’ Anyone with a boss would do well to heed this advice. After all, there is no other relationship at work that’s more important. It – emotionally and financially – pays to get it right.

More inspiration: Go to The-Survey to get a free character strengths profile l For more on Packtypes, see l To get a clearer idea of what you want from your career to help with conversations with your boss, see: l Get ‘strengths’ cards by positive psychologist Dr Ilona Boniwell at or l

I know the type…

Which of the 8 ‘Packtypes’ is your boss and how should you handle them?



The Hound Look

The Pointer

out for the phrase ‘I’ve had an idea!’. Hound bosses are idealists who believe everything is possible and struggle to comply with rules.

They’re knowledgeable and well informed but always think they’re right and generally ignore people who are not good with facts and figures.

Focus on the ‘big idea’ and don’t waste time on detail. If you’re not being interrupted, they’re probably not listening.

Make sure everything you present is well-researched and detailed. Don’t be emotional and don’t expect them to ‘get’ you.

How to manage them: Keep things short and to the point, but be willing to resort to a bit of flattery and ego-stroking.

Manage your own priorities and expect to have to repeat yourself as your Terrier boss won’t always be listening.



point emails/updates

speak louder than words



How to manage them:

Communication preference: The

The Coachdog Naturally peoplefocused, they notice and care about the little things that really matter to other people.

How to manage them: Have a proper

personal conversation before getting down to business. Try to avoid confrontation; they don’t like upsetting anyone.

Communication preference: A chat over a cup of tea

How to manage them:

Communication preference: The



The Guard Dog They’re goal-driven and ambitious, and interested in what’s in it for them. They have a tendency to push ahead, regardless of other people’s concerns.

Communication preference: Bullet-


The Terrier Terrier bosses love being busy, so focus on action, not words or theory. They’re not great planners, so everything is always critical and urgent. How to manage them:

Communication preference: Actions


The Mastiff

The Retriever

The Sheepdog

Charismatic, inspirational and quick to thank, this type of boss loves a gossip and also has a habit of starting one thing before finishing something else.

Reliable, cautious and conscientious (maybe even cynical) with strong opinions they’re not afraid to share.

How to manage them:

Organised, methodical and like to control everything. They love lists and don’t respond well to change, lateness or mess.

Trust is everything, so get inside their circle of trust. Always deliver on your promises and make them think it was their idea.

tasks that need doing rather than discussing intangible possibilities. Put everything in writing.

project plan

list and CC’d email

How to manage them:

Mastiff bosses usually have a short attention span, so keep everything upbeat and ‘Sell the sizzle not just the sausage!’

Communication preference: A stage!

Communication preference: The

How to manage them: Concentrate on

Communication preference: The tick

M AY 2 0 1 6 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 53

Next month in

Our brand new wellness section Meet the 360ME team The world’s best experts The most practical and powerful advice #360ME

Plus…  l Overwhelmed?

The definitive guide to coping with busyness  l How to whistle  l Just good

flatmates… What my lodger taught me about love

Don’t miss the JUNE issue – on sale 29 April

photograph: gallerystock

while you work

Trek Nepal 31 March-10 April 2017

Hike the Himalayas in beautiful Nepal and raise much needed funds for the cancer charity or hospice of your choice For more information and to register online: 01590 646410 |


Signed, sealed, delivered… When was the last time you sat down and wrote an actual letter to someone? Martha Roberts decided it was time she put pen to paper to resurrect the lost art of writing letters – the results were a delight



hen I was a child, I hated the tedium of writing thankyou letters. ‘Why can’t I just phone them to say thanks?’ I’d protest. ‘Because people enjoy receiving letters,’ my mum would explain. Now that I’m an adult, I get it. There’s nothing like picking up a proper, hand-written letter from the doormat, complete with a wonky stamp and sealed with love. These days, my own post tends to consist mainly of brown envelopes and estate agent circulars. And I’ve come to miss those scrawled missives,

often illegible but always sent with purpose and meaning. Like most of us, I blithely fire off emails all day long – 2015 research shows we send around 80 personal emails per day. I frequently send postcards through Touchnote (you type out your message, they send it), which means my pen is largely redundant. Recently, I was asked to pen a letter to a stranger on the subject of happiness for an anthology called Dear Stranger, published by Penguin on behalf of the mental health charity Mind. I understand the potency of a letter, however, I can’t recall the last

time I posted somebody an actual, physical, ‘tear open the envelope and feel the paper’ letter (research also shows that we receive just one personal letter every seven weeks). And as for receiving one? My mum probably sent me the last one I received, and she died in 2011. When I think about how ‘real’ post with its scrawls and stamps makes me feel, I long to experience that joy again.

Rediscovering ‘real’ post

That’s when I decided to sit down and try to rediscover the lost art of writing letters for myself. I figured that if I long >>>

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them, too? But is there actually any point in writing letters? Research shows that there is. Not only does the person on the receiving end benefit, the letter-writer does, too. Positive psychology guru Martin Seligman says that writing a ‘letter of gratitude’ can help both the writer and recipient and can also improve both physical and emotional health – something proved by studies. The effects can last for weeks. A 2012 study in the Journal of Happiness Studies looked at the effects of writing letters of gratitude on happiness, life satisfaction and depression. The study asked 219 women and men to write three letters over a threeweek period. Lead author Steven Toepfer discovered that letter-writing had a cumulative effect: ‘If you write over time you’ll feel happier and more satisfied, and if you’re suffering from depressive symptoms, your symptoms will decrease.’ Harley Street psychologist Dr Becky Spelman adds: ‘The simple act of writing a letter can be incredibly healing and cathartic for both the sender and the receiver, as it taps into a very personal part of our psyche and opens up a side of many people that often stays locked away.’

Pick up that pen

Not only that, but how you write it seems to matter, too. Penning it by hand rather than on a computer can aid memory, for example. A 2011 study by Professor Anne Mangen, from the University of Stavanger in Norway, found that putting pen to paper seems to imprint knowledge in the brain far more than using a keyboard and a computer monitor. Writing down your feelings can also see physical wounds heal faster by

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helping the writer to make sense of events and reduce distress (according to a 2013 study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine). Dr Spelman says: ‘Research strongly suggests that sender reactions to a handwritten letter are more emotionally engaged than if a letter is created digitally, so if the desired outcome is to communicate on a very personal human level, then it would suggest that this method is more successful.’

Writing letters reminded me how easy it is to make someone smile and to spread some joy through an unexpected activity

>>> to receive them, surely I need to send

And, she adds, the effect of doing it just once can last for weeks. So that was that – the evidence seemed compelling. I decided to write a letter to my friend Jen, whom I first met in the dark early days of having lost my baby son. She has been there through some of my bleakest times and, thankfully, some fun ones, too. However, our lives are so busy, I feel like I’ve never really taken the time to tell her what she means to me. I visited a high-street stationers, bought some writing paper and envelopes and sat down to write the letter by hand. At first, it was quite a strange experience – no cutting and pasting, or deleting clumsy sentences. I discovered that I was severely out of practice but I ploughed on anyway, hoping that Jen would see that it’s the sentiment that counts. Then one night, Jen and I met up and I read the letter out to her as she

sat opposite me (Seligman’s research shows this has the most positive effect). We ended up crying and laughing, reflecting on our time together as friends and realising how lucky we were in our friendship. Seligman was right – my ‘letter of gratitude’ was definitely good for both of us. And not only that, one sheet of handwritten paper seemed to have more power than a thousand emails ever could. After that I wrote a couple more, including one that could never be sent: the ‘recipient’ was my mum, who died four years ago. On the anniversary of her death, I lit a candle, sat with a photo of her holding me as a baby and read my letter out loud, thanking her for giving me life and teaching me about humour, kindness and love.

A letter a day

Deborah Watson, 37, a PR executive from Suffolk, decided to write a letter every day in 2013 after receiving one herself the previous Christmas. ‘The knowledge that I had to write a letter would make me take time out to calm down, turn off distractions, take a pen and paper and articulate what was in my heart and head at that time,’ she explains. ‘It also reminded me how easy it is to make someone smile and to spread joy through an unexpected activity. It really isn’t about giving huge gifts or grand gestures. The whole process also reminded me that the written word is incredibly powerful.’ Compared to Deborah, my efforts are paltry – I’ve managed a total of five letters so far. But already I’m feeling the benefits. As well as improving my handwriting (an unexpected spinoff!), writing letters makes me calmer and happier. Most importantly, it feels like I’m seizing the day instead of letting time pass without telling people how much they mean to me.

Have the conversations you always wanted to have! Feel properly understood and appreciated... Get people talking about what matters Understand yourself Understand others Help others do the same… “I love how easy and friendly Packtypes is and that it crosses the boundary beween home and work life. I use it with my husband and son and with no rights or wrongs it lets you delve into the strengths others see in you.” Melanie Aley “Packtypes is the most brilliant and accessible tool to build better human interactions across the board.” Ed Will, Breakfast Packtypes®, order yours today, £24.99 01386 832844 | |

shared values

Celia Imrie

Actor Celia Imrie, 63, is known for comic TV such as Dinnerladies, and films including The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Her second novel is out now INTERVIEW Elizabeth Heathcote photogr aph rachell smith

Actors are gypsies, which I love. I would never like to put anyone off but, if a young actor is worried about what happens next, then they’ve chosen the wrong path. I still feel I’m 26, which is a very good thing to feel actually. We’ve been very blessed in our generation. My dad was in both wars, in the Navy, and my mother drove ambulances and entertained the troops playing her violin. We have no idea what war was like. If I met a young person with anorexia, I would shake them. [Celia had anorexia as a teenager.] I’d say it’s a waste of life, we’ve only got one and you’ve just got to get on with it. I think it’s part of the self-absorbed generation and it bothers me. Also, it’s utter hell for the people around you. I wish I could have those days back to give back to my mum, because I put her through a nightmare. My mother had enormous spirit and courage. She absolutely loved betting on the horses – most of our carpets were bought by her winnings. She used to ride her bicycle everywhere and forget where she left it. She was supposed to marry someone posh and titled but didn’t – she married my father who was 20 years older than her and a doctor from Glasgow. She was a glorious example in life. If there is a choice of path, I’ll generally go on the one that hasn’t been trodden. I’ve been criticised for the way that I behave from all sorts of quarters. I guess I don’t do things in the way I should, but then neither did my mother. These are quite scary times. I think to myself going into the centre of London, what if? But that can paralyse you. There are powers above us and the only thing we can do is be kind to the people around us, be with the people we love,

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be courageous and good to each other. And I think people intrinsically are all of these things. Having a child is the most marvellous thing for getting you to focus on something apart from yourself. Our profession is rather self-oriented. My son is very sensible and he keeps my feet on the ground. He will say ‘Mum, I don’t think you should wear that,’ which I love. To hear an audience laugh is one of the most wonderful sounds in the world; I would walk a million miles for that. And if we, in our chosen life, can make people laugh I think that’s an enormously healthy prescription – better than a bottle of pills any day. I love the world and I want to see as much of it as possible before I pop off. It’s very good to see how other people live. I’m a very proud patron of a charity called Seva Mandir, which is helping to educate women in India. When we were filming The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, we were staying in the most luxurious hotels but outside little girls had absolutely nothing, and you can’t un-see those things. It distresses me when people aren’t aware of where they are because they’re on a wretched gadget. Even walking along the street – they forget to be in the moment, hearing the birds. I have my best friend to thank for saving my life [Celia nearly died from two pulmonary embolisms]. She was around and called the ambulance. It was absolutely horrible and it made me think, get on with life. I try to live every moment to the fullest, but I still have to tell myself this. I still get anxious about stupid things and I just think, why? Why? ‘Nice Work (If You Can Get It)’ by Celia Imrie (Bloomsbury, £12.99) is out now

Our agony aunt Mary Fenwick offers a new perspective on whatever is troubling you

I thought I’d dealt with this ”


I was sexually abused by my father throughout my childhood. It was disclosed two years ago, and I am now living with my mother and sisters, free from the situation. However, I haven’t had any form of sexual relations since. I am scared of the physical and emotional scars that may resurface, should I even attempt to have sex. These thoughts and feelings occur despite having undergone counselling, and feeling proud that I had dealt with my countless emotions towards my father. I thought I had resolved my feelings of fear, yet I still find myself relating all forms of intercourse to my horrific experience. How can I work through this, before it ruins all my future attempts at long-term relationships? Name withheld


We live in a sexualised world, and many of us are confused, even without your experience. Your first sentences are heart-breaking. I cannot imagine the pain that you summarise in so few words, and am in awe of your

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Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow

courage, honesty and determination. My own view is that sex is a continuation of conversation by other means, but it’s not a conversation you want to have with just any old body. Congratulations for making a start with counselling. I suggest you continue exploring your feelings out loud in a safe space such as a support group or close friends, even as you take baby steps towards other relationships. In time, maybe one of those new relationships will be worthy of moving on to a sexual level. Do not buy the story that everyone else is having six sorts of uncomplicated intimacy before breakfast. You will be connecting with another person who brings their own vulnerability and complication. Statistically, we can’t ignore the fact that might even include some sort of abuse in their own background. The website Into The Light ( offers a section on relationship help for people who have experienced abuse, moving from dating to sex. It includes suggestions for how to set boundaries with a new partner before things get physical, and especially to consider the timing. I like

GOT A QUESTION FOR MARY? Email, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick

this summary: ‘Great sex is fantastic, but it can hide emotionally what is going on in other parts of the relationship. If the sex is good it is easy to assume you are closer to the person than you actually are.’ It’s worth exploring and perhaps even practising how you might talk to a potential partner about sexuality, including helping them to understand that it’s not about them and their attractiveness. Another tip is to anticipate that you might experience flashbacks, and to be prepared with grounding techniques that you know will work for you. I want to challenge the idea about ruining all your future relationships. You are self-aware, committed and articulate. Please keep talking, learning about yourself and sharing with those who are worthy of your trust – we need your voice.


“How do I adjust to suddenly becoming a carer?”


I am dealing with a tricky set-up at home. My elderly father-in-law, 80, has come to live with us in the last six months as he’s not in good enough health to live on his own any more, and my husband and I wanted to make sure he was cared for. We’re trying hard, but he is proving very difficult to live with. He’d previously been on his own for years so is not used to considering anyone else and is often thoughtless, and more than a little old-fashioned about expecting to have everything done for him. He never says thanks for anything or ever offers to help in even the smallest way. I try to be kind, but it’s really changed

to the dynamic in our house and it’s particularly trying as he’s my in-law – it’s hard to speak to him directly about it. Help! Name supplied


You have taken on a role as carer, which does not come with a job description, or any guarantee of satisfaction, particularly if your caree is not motivated to make the job easier. It is a generous commitment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also feel disheartened, resentful and guilty. The ‘tips for newbie carers’ on the Carers UK website (see ‘More Inspiration’, below) include registering as a carer with your GP, requesting a Carer’s Assessment from your local

council, and making sure that you also take care of your own needs. Topics on the forum include ‘complete refusal to wash’, ‘Dad doing my head in’ and ‘adult dribble bibs’. I hope that does not put you off even more! In your particular dynamic, I trust there is still a sense that you are dealing with this alongside your husband as a team – if not, he is the first person you need to speak to, not your father-in-law. I wonder whether your father-in-law is falling short of his own best self, and resents losing his independence. I look at my mother, struggling for equanimity in a care home, and ask whether I would rise to any level of saintly acceptance. I take my hat off to you.

“I feel like I need more support at university”

photograph: victoria birkinshaw


At the start of last year, I thought I had everything; I’m in the middle of my degree, and I was in a relationship that had lasted a year (my longest), and everything was going well. Then the relationship started to plummet, my depression kicked in and, when university broke up, so did we. When the new uni year started again I thought I’d found my feet, but when my ex-boyfriend started contacting me I began to spiral, and became obsessive over him, thinking we were going to get back together. A couple of months into regular phonecalls, texts and three-hour FaceTime sessions I found out he had a girlfriend, and had done for a while. Over the Christmas break, we ended up getting intimate on FaceTime, but since then he’s completely

blanked me. I can’t stop obsessing. I don’t know how to move on. Please help me; I’m feeling worse than ever, and I’m on my own now at uni. Name supplied


No matter how bad it feels, please remember you are not on your own, and many people do care about your welfare, not least your university. They have a duty of care towards you, both legally and in the sense that this support is part of what you pay fees for. The key thing is for you to tell at least one person how you’re feeling. That might be your parents, university counselling service, a friend or an anonymous, confidential listening service such as the Samaritans. According to the student-run service Nightline (see ‘More Inspiration’, right), up to 75 per cent

of students experience some degree of psychological distress while at university, and it will often be at night when other services are closed. Please check whether Nightline applies where you’re studying – it might be particularly helpful for you to speak to a fellow student; some are also set up for emails, instant messages and texts. Thank you for reminding us all – parents, students or friends – that our precious young people need support. More inSPIRATION Call 0808 801 0331, the helpline for The National Association for People Abused in Childhood, or visit Research help for carers at Find support if you are suffering from distress at university at

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What does the inside of your wardrobe look like? Is it neatly tidied, colour-coded and free of clutter (if so – congratulations), or, like ours, is it full to the brim, with inhabitants you can’t quite remember, since they’ve lived there undisturbed for years? What about your storage cupboards, bedside table – and that dreaded drawer of doom we’re all ashamed of? This month, we’re considering the primal urge to declutter. However, before your dread of disorder and dust bunnies sets in, what if you could clear out your clutter with a sense of joy? Yes, we said it – JOY! Take on your mountain of stuff with a new frame of mind, discover how to decipher your relationship with it in order to create serenity, and make decluttering more simple and, dare we say it, enjoyable. Bite the bullet, flick the page, and read on…

“Excuse the mess, but we live here” Roseanne Barr M AY 2 0 1 6 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 65


THe art of loving your stuff What’s your relationship with the material world within your home? Is it overflowing with unknown clutter, or do you have a feeling of disconnection with the things you live with? Anita Chaudhuri delves deep inside her wardrobe to discover how her possessions reflect what’s really going on in her life and what it all means


ebruary. A freezing cold afternoon. And I have a bone to pick with inter­ national tidying goddess and inventor of the ‘KonMari’ method, Marie Kondo. Along with five million others across the globe, I purchased her bible, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying (Vermilion, £10.99) and more recently, her new book Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying (Vermilion, £12.99) hoping that if I followed her advice, magic and joy would happen. ‘A dramatic reorganisation of the home causes correspondingly dra­ matic changes in your lifestyle and perspective. It is life-transforming,’ she promises in her first book. ‘Not only will you never be messy again, you’ll have a new start in life.’ This is quite a promise, as I am not exactly blessed with the neat gene, but I embark on the ‘tidying festival’ she suggests with hope in my heart. Three weeks later, I get out of my immaculately made bed and decide to go for a muddy February walk. Throwing open my ward­ robe, I survey one silver snakeskin dress by Vivienne Westwood, 50-per-cent-off price-tag still attached, three other party dresses, three cashmere jumpers, two tailored jackets and assorted yoga separates. I search

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in vain for chunky jumpers, fleeces or hooded items. It had been a wrench letting go of my stuff. Many things were suffused with memories: a pair of designer jeans my late mother observed were ‘on their last legs’ the first time I wore them, the vintage tea set which was a special gift from an ex... But I’d steeled myself to focus on Kondo’s tidying mantra; to only hold onto things that create joyfulness. I held out the designer jeans and asked myself ‘Do these “spark joy”?’ No? Then be gone... Now I’ve nothing to wear. I cancel my walk and go shopping.

“At that time, I was hopelessly attracted to the shiny and the showy, with no regard for my actual life”

Closet clarity

Surely there must be another way to create a more joyful relationship with our material world than simply throwing out our joyless-but-useful possessions? Annmarie O’Connor, ‘reformed-hoarder’ turned decluttering coach and author of The Happy Closet (Gill & Macmillan, £12.99), thinks so. ‘I’d been working as a fashion journalist for nine years when I had an aha moment. At that time, I was hopelessly attracted to the shiny and the showy with no regard for my actual life. I was seeking external validation from others. Something needed to change – it took me 45 minutes to get dressed in the morning. My wardrobe looked like the costume department of >>>

Dossier >>> Caesar’s Palace, even though I had nothing to wear to

go and buy a pint of milk in the morning.’ It dawned on O’Connor that she had no real need for all those purchases and that they didn’t reflect her authentic self. ‘It wasn’t the stuff I wanted, it was the feeling I derived from it. I was chasing the emotional pay-off.’ At the time, she was giving personal styling advice to private clients and noticed a pattern. ‘Most of us don’t dress the person we see in the mirror, or shop for her. We buy for the person we once were or the one we want to be. So I was taking the bus to work and getting a free coffee with my loyalty card, but dressing as if I was Anna Wintour. I often noticed this with clients who were shopping for their imaginary future life or those who were holding on to things they no longer used or wore because it reminded them of a time in their life when they were at their best, maybe before they had kids and were slimmer, or when they were in a particular relationship.’ O’Connor wants to help people reframe their relationship with the material world. ‘I aim to encourage people to occupy the present,’ she says. ‘Where you are now and what you own is an evolving entity, it’s not a one-shot deal. It’s not about “let’s choose the 12 items that make you happy” and that’s it for ever.’ She adds that our home is a highly emotional space that attracts all of our habits and hang-ups, and nowhere is more vulnerable than the wardrobe. ‘That’s your emotional baggage hanging on those hangers – the dodgy purchases, the things with tags on. There’s guilt, shame and fear there; sometimes also pride and nostalgia.’

us and is not working any more.’ But why do so many of us hoard stuff we know we’re never going to use? ‘There is always a lot of sadness and lost dreams underpinning why people won’t let go of stuff,’ O’Connor says. ‘Perhaps there’s unresolved fear, for example the fear of not finding another relationship. We fear by letting the stuff go, we’re letting the dream go. But by putting that old concert t-shirt from 20 years ago in a binbag, it doesn’t mean you’re letting go of the dream relationship, it’s just a t-shirt! Get in touch with the present. Sometimes dreams are, in fact, lost, and that’s because it’s time to create new dreams. Ask yourself what is really important to you right now.’

Want and need

There are other reasons for streamlining belongings beyond getting in touch with your authentic self. Consuming more consciously can lead to a more ethical, environmentally friendly lifestyle. That’s a view endorsed by Francine Jay, author of The Joy of Less (Chronicle Books, £10.99). ‘I think the act of consuming should never cause harm to another person or to our environment. We should consume mindfully. Liking the colour of an item or being seduced by an advert are not good reasons to buy something. You should buy something because you need it.’ I strongly suspect that Jay may not agree with my definition of ‘need’. Items I’ve ‘needed’ to buy in the past month include a set of designer kitchen utensils (to replace the ones Kondo encouraged me to bin), a designer gym bag (to tidy my kit away) and a coffee table book on the history of the typewriter. With a sinking feeling, I realise that, in my mind, the line between need and want has become hopelessly blurred. It’s a conundrum that’s vexing many. Earlier this year, Steve Howard, head of Ikea’s sustainability unit, said: ‘In the West, we have probably hit peak stuff.’ When even iconic retail giants are telling us we don’t need more throws, it’s probably time to pay attention. Jay began her decluttering journey when her now-husband’s job relocated from the USA to the UK. Before leaving, they sold everything and decided to only buy new things as and when they needed them. ‘We would say “OK I think we need a saucepan”. I started the Miss Minimalist blog about our experiences, never >>>


Trend forecaster James Wallman has come up with a term for this emotional connection to over-consumption – ‘stuffocation’ – and has written a book of the same name (Penguin, £9.99). ‘What’s stuffocation? It’s a personal thing, it’s an emotion – it’s that feeling when you open your wardrobe and it’s stuffed full but you can’t find a thing to wear. Or, say you urgently need to find a tool or a cooking implement and you have to fight your way through mountains of stuff just to get that one thing. Stuffocation is that frustration when your life, home, car and cupboards are stuffed to the brim. It’s about this crushing sense that materialism has failed

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photograph: jennifer tabb/getty images

“Most of us don’t dress the person we see in the mirror, or shop for her. We buy for the person we once were or the one we want to be”

the six basic rules of tidying by Marie Kondo

Here are some easy steps from the Spark Joy author to help you get started

1 2 3

Commit yourself to tidying up Believe in yourself. Once you’ve made up your mind, all you need to do is to apply the right method.

Imagine your ideal lifestyle When you imagine your ideal lifestyle, you are actually clarifying why you want to tidy and identifying the kind of life you want to live once you have finished. Finish discarding first One characteristic of people who never seem to finish tidying up is that they attempt to store everything without getting rid of anything. You can only plan where to store your things and what to store them in once you’ve decided what

to keep and what to discard. bmbmnbm mbnmbmnbmnbnbmnb


Tidy by category, not by location One of the most common mistakes people make is to tidy room by room. But this approach doesn’t work. Focus on one thing at a time. Confronted with an enormous mound of clothes, you will be forced to acknowledge how poorly you have been treating your possessions.


Follow the right order It is crucial to follow the correct order, which is clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany), and finally, sentimental items. Have you ever run across old

photos while tidying and found that hours have passed? This is a very common blunder. Clothes are ideal for practising this skill, while photos and other sentimental items are the epitome of what you should not touch until you have perfected it.


Ask yourself if it sparks joy The criteria for deciding what to keep and what to discard is whether or not something sparks joy. When deciding, hold the item firmly in both hands as if communing with it. Pay attention to how your body responds when you do this – when something sparks joy, you should feel a little thrill. This is an edited extract from Spark Joy by Marie Kondo (Vermilion, £12.99)

M AY 2 0 1 6 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 69

Dossier >>> thinking I’d get more than a handful of

readers. It snowballed from there.’ Research from Cornell University recently revealed that we derive greater happiness from experiences than material possessions, and not surprisingly Jay is an exponent of this idea. She also suggests that the more stuff we own, the less time we have to devote to creating experiences. What is the link between time and possessions? ‘Shopping in itself is time-consuming, you have to research prices and information, retail outlets, etc. Then once you own the new thing, you have to maintain it, clean it, store it. If it’s valuable, you insure it and worry about it.’

War on clutter

Perhaps, for this reason, she frequently refers to our attempts to master clutter in terms of a ‘war’. ‘Round up the intruders, establish a holding cell. Don’t be tempted to leave them in place and deal with them later; they’ll escape to other parts of the house as soon as your back is turned.’ Refreshingly though, Jay has no patience with complicated folding or storage strategies. ‘Don’t organise your clutter!’ she warns. Why? ‘Because once you give something a cosy abode, it can be hard to get it to leave.’ Other tips include having a zero-tolerance policy on freebies – make-up samples, three-for-two offers, corporate gifts like branded pens, calendars, and bags-for-life must be politely but firmly declined. I am really astonished I never considered this before; even post-Kondo, I discover that I still have dozens of such free items hiding in plain sight. While Jay likes much of KonMari’s oeuvre, she doesn’t go along with the idea that decluttering is a oneoff event. She advocates constant vigilance and believes it’s best to adopt a ‘one in, one out’ policy when buying anything. ‘If you already own the item, then you can’t buy another until you’re willing to give up something in place of it. If it’s better than something you have, then by all means replace it. But otherwise you’re just going to be adding and adding to an ever-growing pile.’ O’Connor posits that people go through an ‘emotional decluttering arc’ from trepidation to motivation,

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where finally you understand the long-term benefits of having a more mindful connection with material possessions. At the end of my own heroic declutterer’s journey, I know exactly what she means.

secret yearning

There is one thing that none of the experts mention however; all that stuff we never wear or use might contain vital clues about the life we secretly yearn for. I unearthed two yoga mats, boxes of formal dinner crockery, more than 100 cookbooks and three leather jackets. Rather than beating myself up, might it be time to unleash the ‘secret selves’ that Julia Cameron works with in The Artist’s Way? Making a priority to entertain more, do yoga at home and see more live music feels more life-enhancing than filling yet more binbags. ‘Yes you can work with secret selves, they can help us through life when we’re looking for escapism,’ advises O’Connor. ‘Just don’t let your wardrobe be a portal to another universe – you don’t want to end up in Narnia.’

food for thought:

The simple life

Research* shows we are happiest during adolescence and retirement – times when we have less to worry about, less to do, and fewer responsibilities; when our lives are, simply, simpler. Could it be that less really gives us more? And how do we live a simpler life, in every area of our lives?



Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home (Penguin, £9.99), explains that living simply and owning fewer possessions can make doing the houseold chores less painful. ‘Less means less to worry about, clean, store, repair or dispose of later,’ she explains. ‘Simplicity can be addictive. Once I fully understood the benefits... I scrutinised my daily activities for opportunities to simplify further. I looked for ways to automate my life as much as possible and limit the chores.’ Johnson’s top tips for happier housework include adopting a minimal lifestyle, as ‘the less you have, the less needs to be picked up and organised’, reducing the number of flat surfaces you have in order to decrease the need for dusting, and allocating a box to hold further decluttering donations. ‘Decluttering is an ongoing process; make it convenient to let go,’ she points out.


Life admin

Could simplifying the amount of work in your life create more space for ideas and happiness? Chris Bailey, author of The Productivity Project (Piatkus, £14.99), suggests that the less you take on, the more ‘attentional space’ you have to focus on your highreturn activities and to come up with better ideas. Easier said than done? Here’s how: ‘The most productive word in your vocabulary… is also the 56th most common word in the English language: no,’ Chris says. ‘We shouldn’t just eliminate and say no to tasks that are pointless; we should also eliminate many of the “pretty good” tasks in our life and work when we can, because they take valuable time away from our most essential tasks.’ Chris suggests the 90 per cent rule, when you look at a new task, and rank it on a scale of 1-100 on how valuable or meaningful you think it is. ‘If it isn’t a 90 or above, don’t do it.’

* Research by Bert Van Landeghem, presented to the Royal Economic Society, 2011

“Just for a week, put all your ornaments away, out of sight. The empty space will be a revelation”


Living space

‘We can all choose the riches that come with owning little. What matters is the courage to carry our convictions through,’ says Dominique Loreau, author of L’art de la Simplicité (Orion, £5.35). She praises the idea of a room empty of overwhelming possessions. ‘A seemingly empty room can be truly luxurious if it is carefully designed, with attention to detail. An empty space allows its occupants to clear their thoughts, as in the vestibule of a grand hotel, a church or a temple,’ she suggests. ‘The resulting interiors are not empty and void; rather they exude a sense of quiet and order. Simplification is a means of embellishment.’ Loreau urges us to experiment with our own homes. ‘Just for one week; put all of your ornaments away, out of sight. The empty space will be a revelation.’



When faced with making decisions or finding solutions, having a set of simple rules is vital, say Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, authors of Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World (John Murray, £20). ‘Meeting complexity with complexity can create more confusion than it resolves. The parts of a complex system can interact with one another in many different ways, which quickly overwhelms our ability to envision all possible outcomes.’ But having a set of simple rules in place (eg, for our morning routine) enables us to make quick, reasonably precise decisions that require less effort. ‘Simple rules work as they focus on key aspects of a decision while ignoring peripheral considerations. By using simple rules, people can function without constantly having to rethink every aspect of a decision each time they make it.’

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Dossier Q&A

What makes a home a home? What does home, and all the things we collect in it, mean to us? What is a home? And how do we make a home? Edward Hollis, architect, teacher and author of How to Make a Home, has some answers


What is a home? I think it’s easier to look at what it isn’t. We think it’s an object, like a Monopoly house, and we tend to imagine that’s what home should be; that inside it, we have to have a certain set of furniture and a certain set of objects. That’s where we tend to get disappointed. When home isn’t that, we think we’ve failed, because we’re not a house-owner who owns a Monopoly house on a street in a town. Actually, most of us don’t have that, and only an ever-decreasing circle of people can afford to have that ‘ideal’ home in the middle of nowhere, detached from other houses. I think that a home is more of a ‘time’ that we occupy in our lives, or a state of mind. It’s not about being in your house; it’s about feeling comfortable somewhere. When we talk about being at home, generally we’re referring to a point of the day or a certain set of activities. It’s something that we do, rather than a thing. Home is something that requires perpetual remaking, looking after, and to me that’s what characterises it. The sense of feeling secure at home is a key part, but that’s not necessarily the same as being locked in a house in the middle of nowhere.

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words ali roff

What does home mean to us as humans? I think it’s evolved with us. If you’re nomadic, then it’s something you carry with you. If you live in a propertyowning society, then you imagine it’s a place. It’s something that develops with us. That’s not to say that it’s not experienced as very real. It’s an ever-changing phenomenon. If you asked people what

“A kettle might be something I think I need, but it’s much more difficult to say explicitly why a photograph is there” they thought home was 500 years ago, they’d have come up with very different answers to today. We’re a bit more like nomadic people nowadays, wandering, following food, resources and livelihoods around the world. We move far more than peasants in a medieval village, who would have lived their entire lives within a five-mile radius, in an incredibly fixed way. We’re much more mobile, so maybe home needs to

become something that we carry with us. It’s also something that is very much related to social status and wealth. If you’re a servant in the 17th century, then you don’t have a bedroom or a home – you sleep at the foot of your master’s bed on the floor. If you work in someone else’s home today, it’s likely you’ll be sleeping in a fold-down bed from a cupboard in their house. Or if you’re a migrant worker, you might be living out of a suitcase in a dormitory. It’s not a universal thing, and I think that’s crucial for us to understand.


When thinking about the things we put in our homes, what should we consider? You can classify objects into ones that are apparently functional; ones I need, ones I perceive I need and ones I’ve no idea why they’re there. A kettle might be something I think I need in my kitchen, but it’s much more difficult to say explicitly why a photograph is there. Even if I thought I needed a kettle, I don’t, because I can boil water on the hob. But I don’t need a hob because I can use a fireplace. Even what we call ‘functional need’ doesn’t exist. It’s an everchanging set of priorities. I think there’s a fascinating thing about clutter where

“Life is a process of perpetual change, homes are always struggling to keep up with that. We won’t cease to collect stuff” whether we mean to or not. Then there’s dust and stains, sheets that get dirty, towels that get wet, and carpets that need vacuuming. I always leave my home mega-clean before going on holiday but, still, when I return there’s dust. We’ve got to go through change all the time to keep it in the same place.

Q it often doesn’t feel like it’s a choice we have made to have things in our houses. We’re given things we don’t want to throw away, so we keep them. Often, collecting stuff is involuntary and feels like something that’s just happening and always will. Every time we declutter, five years later we’ve got to start again. It seems to build up and then it’s a question of what you do with it.


Should we try to make our homes be perfect? Our homes shouldn’t be – and can’t be – perfect. Remember that song with the line ‘don’t read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly’? It’s the same with interiors magazines; they will make you feel inadequate. But

if you see how much work a room in a magazine has had done on it to look like that – stylists go in for a day beforehand to arrange flowers, slice wholemeal bread that artfully falls across the table, one apple rolling out of the fruit bowl – it’s all incredibly theatrical. The other factor is that your home and your life are always changing. If you buy a house and you’re single, and then you get together with someone, the whole dynamic is changed, and then children appear and smear jam all over it. Then they grow up and leave vast empty rooms, and you’re old and can’t get upstairs to clean any more. Life is a process of perpetual change and homes are always struggling to keep up with that. We won’t cease to collect stuff

And should we have a perfect place for all the things we have within our homes? The philosopher Walter Benjamin made some great statements about collecting. Say I’m collecting flying ducks and then suddenly someone gives me a flying fish. Do I throw that fish away because it’s not what I’m collecting – or does my collection change? Knowing that everything should have a place relies on everything remaining fixed. The classic thing in this kind of case is the ‘chairdrobe’ – those clothes that you’ve worn once and you want to wear again without putting them in the wash, but you don’t want to put them back in a cupboard, so where do they sit? Everything is re-classifying itself all the time. It will always be an incomplete process. Lots of us imagine that when we have done that, everything will be sorted, but that’s not going to happen. It’s like the weather, and this perpetual change is not a bad thing, it’s all part of the home.

‘How to Make a Home’ by Edward Hollis (Macmillan, £7.99) is available now

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HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS Three women discuss their living space and the extent to which those ‘things’ they own make a home and represent their identity interviews anita chaudhuri photographs SEAN MALYON

“It’s much calmer to have my surroundings more thoughtfully put together” Renting a small urban space allowed photographer Susannah Conway to truly feel at home ‘Being a photographer, I like to look at inspiring things in my surroundings as I work; for me, that creates a sense of wellbeing. For example, I don’t hide my beautiful vintage typewriter away in a cupboard, it’s on display. And I even organise my books by colour on the shelves, so they look more harmonious. I find that this approach does instil a sense of calm. When I first rented my flat in Notting Hill, I knew I’d have to be to be organised. It’s small, and there’s no space for clutter – that would feel overwhelming to me. My head is so full of thoughts, it’s much calmer for me to have my surroundings more thoughtfully put together. I had previously lived away from London for a while. I mentioned to my American publisher that I was moving back and how I thought it was time to befriend the city again. That’s how the commission for Londontown came about. From my new home base, I was able to really

settle in and create a book proposal. Then for the following five months, three times a week I would go out and about taking pictures of the city. It just made it feel smaller somehow. I do spend large periods of time at home, sometimes I’m a complete “shut-in’’! When you love what you do, it’s so tempting to want to do it all the time. It’s just such a thrill to work on something that you’ve created yourself. I work in every room in this flat and don’t have separate studio space or a spare room as my office. I feel more like myself living in London. I’m happy here because I love living on my own. I’ve dressed the space to reflect me. When you come in, it’s definitely 100 per cent me. I’ve got art on the walls, all my cameras around me, I just feel content here. I feel plugged in again.’ ‘Londontown’ by Susannah Conway (Chronicle Books, £19.99) is out now

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“It was a bit like shedding an old skin”

‘My husband and I were living in a one-bedroom flat so many bags to the charity shop that they asked him if we in London when I got the sense of being weighed down. were moving. He had to say: “No, my wife’s decluttering.’’ I began to crave space, yet everywhere I looked I saw Around the same time, I was reading The Life Visioning bookshelves and boxes whose contents were a mystery. Process by Michael Bernard Beckwith (Sounds True, In a way, you have to have faith in abundance to give £19.99). While doing that I created a blueprint of a more stuff away. I was holding on to stuff because you never simple life, growing our own veg, living off the land. know what’s around the corner. But when you let stuff We had visited Devon and fallen in love with it. We go, you’re telling yourself, “I think I’m going to be OK.” made the decision to move first, then found both a house Some things were difficult to part with, but I found and a new job for Tom. Although the house originally taking photos of a treasured item can preserve the fell through and everything was delayed for months, it memory. I took a pic of all my old teddies. When I look at worked in our favour because our London flat shot up in these photos now, I’m transported back to childhood. I value during that waiting period. Long before the move, don’t need the toy; just something to conjure the memory.  I’d gone through every item in our flat and knew anything Previously I’d never felt able to give away CDs, DVDs or remaining was right to take with us. People kept asking books as I felt that people visiting my home get to know “are you going to have a big sort-out before you go?” I’d say: me by my books and films. But, I realised that if someone “No I’m ready to move now.” I had a sense of being ready wants to know about my passions, they can just ask! I for a new chapter. It was a bit like shedding an old skin.’ For more information about Sharon, visit don’t need those things on display. My husband Tom took 76 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E M AY 2 0 1 6


Life coach Sharon Lawson didn’t realise she was yearning for a slower, simpler pace of life until she decluttered her London home

“If I was ever to be able to move, I’d have to start decluttering”

Author Karen Wheeler found Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy helped her to shed her belongings ‘Eleven years ago, while visiting a friend in southwest France, on impulse I bought a house. I left my career as a London fashion journalist to renovate the place on my own and wrote a series of memoirs about my adventures. Apart from writing, renovating houses is the one thing that really excites me. I love seeing the potential in old boards that need sanding, and windows that need to be replaced. It’s incredibly satisfying. I wanted to renovate another house, but the French winters were starting to get me down. When I was on holiday back in the UK, I found myself driving through a seaside village that was like something out of the 1950s. There was a house for sale by the sea with four miles of sandy beach and a palm tree in the garden. I didn’t know anyone there, but I put in an offer anyway. Back in France I realised that, if I was ever to be able to move, I’d have to start decluttering. I’d acquired a shedload of stuff over the years from French markets. I had a full attic and garage. That’s when I discovered Marie Kondo. The line that really struck me was ‘‘does it bring you joy?’’ I realised that I’m going to carry on moving throughout my life; moving brings me joy. I didn’t want to have to deal with this stuff every time. I got a real thrill from rooting out my possessions and starting again. A lot of things held memories for me. A red transparent Prada skirt and a pair of orange mohair kitten heels were particularly hard to let go of. But I realised that even if I’ve loved them in another life, I don’t want them going forward to the next.’ Karen Wheeler’s ‘Sweet Encore: A Road Trip from Paris to Portugal’ is published by Sweet Pea Publishing



‘Home is where the heart is’ goes the old adage. But is it true for you? Just how important is your living space to you, and what does your home say about your motivation and inner desires? Take our test to find out

manage to pull it off ■ Understand the appeal and wish you could do something similar ▲ Think it’s all very well as long as everything goes to plan… ◆ Can’t wait to be invited over

■ Graze all day, whenever you’re hungry, so you don’t have lunch

6 In an apartment, the most unbearable thing for you is: ▲ Hearing the neighbours ■ Not having a view ● Not having storage space

◆ Having a tiny kitchen

2 For a kitchen, what are your main criteria?

7 The bathroom of your dreams is:

◆ Functional, simple, easy to clean

■ Pretty, refined, comfortable ● Impeccable, practical, well-designed ▲ Overlooking a beautiful forest

▲ Designer fittings, beautiful and airy ■ Pleasant, warm, comfortable ● Well-equipped, modern, minimalist

3 If you had an apartment in a modern building, what would you choose for your living-room floor? ■ Parquet flooring and rugs ● Carpet ▲ Laminated wood or upmarket lino

◆ Easy maintenance carpet tiles

◆ Spacious and bright

8 In a large city, the most important thing is to live near: ● Food shops ▲ A park

◆ Good transport links ■ Your friends

4 Your cupboards are: ● Very tidy ▲ Super organised ■ Not very tidy

9 For a house to feel pleasant, it has to be: ● Clean ▲ Nicely furnished ■ Comfortable

◆ Quite messy

◆ Spacious

5 When you have lunch alone, you… ▲ Set the table and sit down to a

10 When you buy an appliance, your main criteria is whether it is:

proper meal ● Munch while standing by the fridge ◆ Gulp down a sandwich while watching the TV

◆ Cheap

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● Powerful ▲ Sleek and chic ■ Easy to use

11 Your neighbours are constantly renovating their home. You think: ■ They’re addicted to consumerism ▲ They’re happy

◆ They’re crazy ● They must have won the lottery

12 Do you let other people stay at your place when you’re away?

◆ Always ■ Only family ▲ No, with rare exceptions ● Yes, if they leave the house spotless

13 What do you hang on your walls?

◆ Modern art ▲ Beautiful old paintings ■ Family photos ● Work by a relative who has talent

14 The nicest thing to wake up to in the morning is: ● The chirping of birds ▲ Children laughing ■ A church bell

◆ The sound of coffee being made 15 What compliment would you like to hear about your home? ■ ‘The atmosphere is so warm’ ● ‘Your taste is simple and refined’ ▲ ‘You’re a talented interior designer’

◆ ‘You have great ideas about space’ NOW see how many times you picked each symbol, AND TURN THE PAGE TO FIND YOUR PROFILE

Test by Dominique François and Dominique Mazin for psychologies france

1 Your cousin bought a dilapidated mansion to do up himself. You… ● Don’t envy him, and bet he won’t


Mostly ●

Mostly ◆

When it comes to your home, your underlying motivation is to ensure you create a space that feels comfortable and safe. You love nothing more than to have the place looking spick and span, attractive and above all else, functional. You don’t like things randomly scattered about; it’s important for you to know that everything is in its rightful place. There’s no room for unnecessary or cumbersome objects – they only get in your way. It will be no surprise to learn that you are structured and orderly, and that’s how you attain inner peace and serenity. It helps you to respond to difficult situations in life no matter how complicated. When things are organised and clutter-free, it’s as if you’re then able to find more order and clarity within yourself and manage your emotions better. This is how you bring order to your inner world and sweep away those self-doubts. Don’t forget to treat yourself now and again though. Allow your imagination and creative impulses to run wild occasionally by daring to change the decor or colour scheme. You might surprise yourself. Learn to cherish the odd indulgent piece of art or colourful rug, even if, strictly speaking, they don’t provide a useful function.

Your home is not your priority in life – far from it. It is important to you that your living space is comfortable, pleasant and functional, but you don’t want to spend a disproportionate amount of energy on it. There’s no way you would ever spend your precious free time doing DIY or interior decorating – you have better things to do. Your home is a place to lay your head at the end of a busy day. For you, happiness is to be found elsewhere, in the outside world. Relationships are what is premium to you. You have a strong desire for openness with others and to have freedom to explore. You also perceive your inner world as stifling and restricted, and you tend to avoid contemplation. It’s as if you’d rather preoccupy yourself with the lives of others than your own. Why do you lavish so little attention on yourself? You may have issues around self-esteem and a tendency to put your own efforts down compared with those of others. Notice your own personal comfort and wellbeing a little more. Change the layout of your home, even if you just move the sofa to a different angle. Learn more about your own preferences and act on them. You will soon discover it’s a lot more fun staying home than you thought.

Mostly ▲

Mostly ■

You are on a mission to create an aesthetically pleasing space in which to live. You like things to be balanced and harmonious, combining style with comfort. Your choice of furniture and home decor definitely reflects this side of your nature. You are intuitive and unafraid to be guided by your feelings and, in this way, your living space has evolved as you yourself have changed. There’s also a side of you that is a little aloof, and you enjoy seducing others by playing hard to get. Self-image is very important to you and you find it hard to tolerate carelessness. Perhaps, growing up, you were driven to place great importance on appearance and good manners. The result is that you come across as a person of refinement, but you can sometimes give others the impression of being a little bit repressed. Maybe you’re scared to reveal yourself fully to others, in case they discover that you’re not perfect after all. Be prepared to take a few more risks and express yourself in the moment. Don’t get too hung up on what constitutes good manners or good taste. Learn to tolerate other people’s shortcomings and, in the process, you will learn to accept your own. It’s all part of the charm of life.

You view your home as a haven; a space that allows you to escape from the outside world. Your home is your safe space, your personal universe. You are talented at knowing exactly how to create the right atmosphere in each room. Everything is warm, comfortable and cosy. The idea of living in a show-home holds no appeal for you and perfectionism doesn’t interest you. What matters most is that your home makes you feel good. Every object and item of furniture is important to you because they remind you of special moments in your past, from trips you’ve taken, to relationships and family memories. In a sense, your home serves as a buffer zone between you and the harsh realities of the world ‘out there’. It is an extension of your emotional life, where you favour uncomplicated relationships based on authentic expression and absolute trust. However, all this focus on feeling good suggests you are not yet comfortable expressing difficult emotions such as conflict or anger. Don’t isolate yourself in your cosy cocoon. Instead, throw open your front door and allow others in – to your home and to your heart. That way, you will enjoy life – and your haven – even more.

Need for order

Show-home style

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Bed and breakfast

Nest appeal



In partnership with NOW Live Events, we’re offering two life-changing workshops – Harvard professor Susan David on how to deal with difficult emotions, and speaker and coach Jackee Holder on how you can heal your life through writing. Plus, get confident with us at HowTheLightGetsIn




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DATE: 11 April TIME: 7pm8.30pm VENUE: Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1 4RL COST: £20 Every day we speak around 16,000 words – but the voice in our heads creates thousands more. Thoughts such as ‘I’m not spending enough time with my children’ or ‘I don’t have the confidence to do this work presentation’ are taken as unshakeable facts when, in reality, they are the judgmental opinions of our inner voice. Susan David, author of Emotional Agility and professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, will help us to become aware of our emotional inner dialogue, face feelings and flourish using our emotional agility.

DATE: 3 May TIME: 7pm8.30pm VENUE: Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1 4RL COST: £20 Writing is one of the oldest forms of therapy, and it’s been shown that keeping a journal where you write about your emotions regularly can boost your mental wellbeing and physical health, helping you to feel happier. In this workshop with inspirational speaker, coach, writer and Psychologies Life Labs blogger Jackee Holder, you will practise expressive and therapeutic writing techniques designed to deal with everyday stresses, dilemmas and challenges, and to create opportunities for personal insight.

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The 2016 programme is set to be bigger and better than ever, with a line-up of world-leading speakers and performers, from Mercury Prize nominees ESKA, Grammy-nominated Zero 7, Ghostpoet, Gilles Peterson, King Charles and comedian Robin Ince. Early headline speakers include: philosopher Roger Scruton, actress Sally Phillips, former London mayor Ken Livingstone, professor Frank Wilczek, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, journalist Owen Jones and professor and author Simon Baron-Cohen. Festival Tickets are available for the first Bank Holiday weekend, Midweek or Finale weekend, or a special discounted 3-in-1 Festival Ticket for the whole 11 days. Prices start at £64 for a midweek ticket to £178+ for the whole 11 days. Accommodation and other extras, including a luxury yurt, can be booked with tickets. Book at

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One may doubt the necessity for a blusher ‘palette’ – most of my friends don’t bother with blush at all – but if feeling a bit peaky, a pop of colour on the apples of cheeks is the best cosmetic lift I know. The new Urban Decay Gwen Stefani Blush Palette, £35, is a delight – you can use to highlight, bronze and blush. No doubt this will fly off the shelves…

Elemis British Botanical Hand & Nail Butter, £18.50


This is the month to...

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Ooh, can you feel it? That energy of possibility? Brighter mornings, longer days – how glorious to leave work with the sun still in the sky! My new energy is invariably accompanied by a make-up refresh… spring light is softer on skin, which sings when paired with pastels, peaches and subtle shimmer. It might even be time to coax shins out of tights and necks out of snoods. To this end I have rounded up the loveliest things to brighten these spring days further… all have made me smile, all have made life that little bit more beautiful.

Health + wellness director



This shea butter provides intensive nourishment for dry hands, without greasiness. All that lingers is the fresh, invigorating, almost masculine scent; like kissing daddy’s cologne-scented cheek in the garden.


Ethnobotanist James Wong consulted on this first eye cream in the best-selling Liz Earle Superskin range, £35, which boasts targeted botanicals to brighten, lift and reduce puffiness. Creamy and rich, it’s ideal for drier skins.

M AY 2 0 1 6 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 87




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FIRST CREATION From one of the first serums, to the patronage of local artists, there’s more than a little je ne sais quoi about the iconic French brand Darphin. Eminé Ali Rushton looks at how the global beauty company maintains its artisanal ethos


hen I mention the name Darphin to my friends, they initially draw a blank. Then I’ll take the product out of my bag – the iconic mint-green packaging with glinting silver lettering – and the nods follow, ‘Oh yes, I love Darphin!’. For a brand that was born in the 1950s and has gone on to inhabit spas, stores and pharmacies worldwide, it’s unusual that it has never felt like a ‘mass market’ brand. It’s owned by Estée Lauder Companies, but things are done in a very particular way – from the diminutive laboratory in Paris, where all new products are created, to their charming Instagram account that forgoes incessant ‘PR’ back-patting in favour of a tour de France – the best restaurants, boutiques, exhibitions – unapologetically and proudly Parisian (and when Iris Apfel pops in for a facial, she pops up on the feed, too).


To understand the present, we need to consider the past – and the brand founder, Pierre Darphin. His wife has been quoted as saying, ‘he was not an easy man. He expected the best, of everyone, and everything’. Whether or not he invented the world’s first skincare serum is hotly contested – but he certainly made one of the fi rst: Intral, £55,

88 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E M AY A R C2 H 0 1260 1 5

was created in 1958, the same year that Pierre Darphin opened the Institut de Beauté in Paris, and remains a bestseller to this day. Darphin himself was trained in kinesiotherapy (a science-based form of physical rehabilitation and exercise), and later worked as a dermatologist assistant in the Hospital Saint Louis in Paris, and it was this unusual combination of training and expertise that informed his pioneering facial techniques. Pierre Darphin was also one of the fi rst to use acupuncture, skin-sculpting massage techniques, galvanic therapy, micro-currents and customised skin analysis in his treatments. Once established, he took to the road – invited to be the ‘guest’ facialist at Darphin franchise institutes across France where all therapists were personally trained by Darphin – as word of mouth, and waiting lists, continued to grow. Today, the exacting legacy of Pierre Darphin is driven forward by a circle of brilliant women. Visit Darphin at CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Pierre Darphin’s original and bestselling serum, Intral; Darphin Vendome Institute in Paris; director of research and development Laurence Cassereau; 8-Flower Nectar Oil Cream; the Paris lab; artist Vincent Farrelly of Antoinette Poisson; L’Institut Facial Sonic Cleansing and Massaging Expert; Pierre Darphin himself >>>

“Everyone knows that it has to be completely perfect. We don’t make it easy with our unusual formulas, or the expense of our ingredients, but this is the only way we know how to do it. It’s the Darphin way”


the boost } beauty

>>> their lab, 30 minutes outside of central Paris, in a sleepy

residential neighbourhood, and you wonder at the intimacy of the arrangement. The lab is small, but state of the art. Yes, white coats are worn, but the environment is far from clinical – enthusiastic female chemistry grads mix with chemist engineers, such as Julie Leproux, who worked on perfecting the unique melting-butter texture of the 8-Flower Nectar Oil Cream, £65, overseen by the visionary Laurence Cassereau, director of research and development. Pierre Darphin’s perfectionism is alive and well here. The production methods used are often time-consuming and the raw ingredients very costly. Once the formula is created it is then pilot-tested in the same lab. If it passes, it is sent out for testing. The products are then made to the exact recipe in a factory in France.

formula one

future perfect

Then there are the surprising collaborations; Darphin eschews big names in favour of just-under-the-radar artists – such as Antoinette Poisson, a trio of young and inordinately talented (albeit photogenic) paper conservators, who have rediscovered a lost art of wallpaper and print-making, disused since the French Revolution. It was a smart move – both are exemplars of French heritage, and, ‘The Art of Formulation’. ‘They mirror our values because they never take the easy route,’ says Caroline du Pin de Saint André, Darphin’s global communications director, who spotted Poisson’s painstaking work and commissioned them to work on a signature Darphin print – this is Darphin as patron to a forgotten art, and fitting given the brand’s history. It is also an unusual move given that most big brands are understandably looking to capture the lucrative millennial market, and forever seeking to sign the most powerful social influencers of the age. A hefty social following is also lucrative currency – late teen to mid-20s consumers have been shown to respond to creative use of social media and influence more so than traditional advertising. Darphin, on the other hand, seems to sidestep such commercial expectations entirely – their one defiant modus operandi is longevity. It cannot hurt that Darphin’s largest territory outside of France is the beauty jewel in the crown – Korea. ‘We are huge in Korea,’ says du Pin de Saint André, ‘because they get us. They’re not afraid of layering – cleansing, toning, using a serum, an oil, a cream. They also love massage, and all of our products come with a specific application technique.’ Darphin has extraordinarily high brand fidelity across all territories, even in the notoriously fickle emerging markets, which are obsessed with the latest thing. It’s also poetic that Pierre Darphin’s original invention, Intral serum, remains the brand’s bestseller. In an age of corporate cynicism and social media malaise, Darphin are a breath of French air – appealing to the aesthete and the artisan in all of us.

“You need to work hard on creating stability. It takes us at least six months of research and then a full year of testing and evaluating before a product reaches the market”

Simplifying the formulas might make life easier, but that’s not on the table – the 8-Flower Nectar Oil Cream requires the oil of 280 petals per pot, 30 hours of continual stirring, and 168 hours to ‘set’… and Leproux is the first to attest to the difficulty of hitting the mark every time. ‘The production process has to be meticulous – if you try to cut corners with this product, it just doesn’t set properly. You can’t rush it,’ she says. ‘Everyone knows it has to be completely perfect. We don’t make it easy with our unusual formulas, or the expense of our ingredients, but this is the only way we know how to do it. It’s the Darphin way.’ Has anything ever been reformulated I wonder, to save money or time? ‘No,’ she smiles. ‘But we have reformulated whenever it’s been possible to make our products even the tiniest bit better. All of our products are a minimum of 80 per cent natural – most are more; our 8-Flower Nectar Oil, for example, is 99 per cent natural. We will always have our foundation in nature and use so many different fruit, vegetable, nut and plant butters and oils. That’s what gives things their unique smell and texture. But you also need to work very hard on creating stability. As a minimum, it takes us at least six months of research and then a full year of testing and evaluating before a product reaches the market,’ says Leproux. Darphin’s latest launch has been two years in the making. The L’Institut Facial Sonic Cleansing and Massaging Expert, £125 (launching in May 2016), is the first tool that actively bridges the gap between the pioneering and hi-tech treatments developed by Pierre Darphin, and today’s

90 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E M AY 2 0 1 6

at-home user of Darphin products. Two detachable heads work to first deeply cleanse, then massage and boost microcirculation. Videos to highlight best usage will also be on the Darphin website, a bridge between spa and bathroom.

To experience Darphin, why not take out six months’ subscription to ‘Psychologies’ for £11.97 and receive a free gift of Darphin Revitalising Oil, worth £25. Go to

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As close to your skin as you are. Cetraben Cream patient preference study, Sept 2013


Always read the label

the boost } wellness


yoga plan With the help of online yoga company Movement for Modern Life, Psychologies’ editor, Suzy Greaves, introduces our new 30-day yoga course that promises to transform your life, from healing emotional wounds to finding physical balance and living life more consciously. So dig out those tracky bottoms and get online…

soul, plus using yoga to heal after a relationship breakdown. The thing that impressed me the most was Kat’s authenticity as well as her passion for the transformational power of yoga. ‘I believe that life really is better when we move more, breathe more deeply and start to live more consciously,’ says Kat. ‘Movement for me has been fundamental in healing deep physical and emotional wounds, as well as simply bringing joy into the day. I would love for people to experience these online classes as a tool in their toolbox for life.’ For me, the online courses work so well because I can easily get up half an hour earlier in the morning and do them at home. ‘There’s no need to wait until you drum up the courage to get to a studio, no need to look a certain way or fit into expensive yoga gear,’ agrees Kat, ‘just move – move in your PJs, move in your dodgy tracksuit bottoms.’ I have a drawer full of dodgy tracksuit bottoms at home, so I was delighted when Kat offered to create a 30-day >>>

“I believe life is better when we breathe more deeply and live more consciously”

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PHOTOGRAPH: gallerystock


oga came to me later in life. As a recent convert, I often feel like the oldest and baggiest in the class, but I love it. And it makes me feel better on a daily basis – more energetic, less stressed. But that’s no surprise. There is a mountain of evidence to prove the holistic health benefits of yoga. A recent study, with 18 peer-reviewed articles, showed the underlying effects of practising yoga and it was found to improve every­ thing from circulation and hormones to fitness, as well as significantly decreasing stress levels. At Psychologies HQ, we have one yoga class a week during the day, but I was finding it difficult to do more classes after work. So I started searching the internet for online classes and found Kat Farrants and her inspiring UK-based online yoga company, Movement for Modern Life. Within 24 hours, we’d arranged a meeting and we bonded big style. Kat had used yoga to transform her life – making a leap from a job that sucked her

the boost } beauty

F EB R U A R Y 2 0 1 5 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 93

the boost } wellness

>>> transformational yoga course, exclusively for Psychologies.

With teacher Zephyr Wildman, who has been teaching yoga since 2002 in London, everywhere from the Life Centre to The Recovery Centre (treatment centre for addiction, depression and other dependency problems), this 30-day course enables you to practise mindful movement, meditation and yoga every day for 10 to 30 minutes. Each daily practice is an exploration of the profound tenets of an ancient tradition, from self-knowledge and self-acceptance, to getting in touch with your body intelligence and letting go of old belief systems. ‘I know you might be cynical about anything with “30 days” and “transformation” in the title, but that is just enough time to set out a new approach to mental health and balance in our lives,’ says Wildman. ‘The ideas, concepts and techniques you will learn are life skills to be carried forward and aid us on our path to mental and emotional wellbeing. These life skills create a foundation for a disciplined and devoted practice of recommitting to ourselves as we go forward.’ I’d love it if you’d join us on our 30-day transformation course. I can’t wait to start. In the meantime, here are five powerful transformative exercises, created by Kat, to try over the next five days:


And breathe…


It’s vital to keep your spine flexible and strong. Cat/cow is a simple but transformative move, using ocean breath with your movement. On all fours, inhale, then as you exhale, start the movement in the pelvis, tucking it in, contract your abdomen and dome your spine to the sky like a hissing cat, your head and neck tucking. On a slow exhale, release the neck so your head comes up, and vertebra by vertebra your spine concaves, with the

94 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E M AY 2 0 1 6


Open your arms

A simple way to feel powerful is to move the arms with the breath, feeling the ocean breath powering each movement. With your hands in prayer position, take a second to feel gratitude for this moment. With an intention of gratitude, raise your hands above your head on a deep, slow ocean inhale. Exhale slowly and take your arms wide; they drop to your sides on the end of the exhale. As you inhale again, the arms come up through the middle of the body, through a prayer mudra (or conscious hand position) to the sky, and repeat.


Do the dog

Downward dog is a classic yoga pose and reverses the effects of gravity on the spine, lengthens the hamstrings, releases the neck, and strengthens the shoulders, upper body and core. Start on all fours, then as you exhale, move your pelvis back and start to straighten your knees, with your heels coming towards the ground. Tail bone stretches to the sky and your hands press into the ground to move your torso back towards your thighs. This is a complex pose, and there are instructions on how to do it at

“30 days is just enough time to set out a new approach to mental health and life balance”

The most important exercise anyone can do is learn to breathe consciously, deeply and smoothly. Ujjayi breath, or ocean breath, is known for being very calming. With your hands either side of your ribcage, slowly breathe in through your nose and feel your hands moving away from each other, letting the ribcage expand. Make a noise at the back of your throat that sounds like the ocean. When you breathe out, your ribcage contracts again and your hands move closer together, the noise of the ocean in the back of your throat.

Catting about

tail bone finally rising to the sky. Repeat this slowly, with ocean breath, to free the spine, and the mind will follow.


And breathe… (again)

The most simple and transformative meditation was taught to me by meditation teacher Alexander Filmer-Lorch. To start, sit quietly and feel your body in gravity, your tail bone dropping to the ground. Let go of all preconceptions, this is just about the journey and the enquiry into where you can take your attention. Start with your attention at the tip of the nose. As you gently inhale, take the breath to the highest point above your head and then exhale all the way down the spine to your tail bone. Let the attention remain on your breath all the way up, then all the way down again, and repeat. Simple, but transformative. Buy our 30-day online transformation yoga course at psychologies-practical-wisdom-online-courses. Find out more about Kat Farrants and her inspirational yoga teachers at

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Leading me through the overgrown gate of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s famous book, Birch & Brook’s Secret Garden Candle, £38, sings with peony, hyacinth and lily of the valley, undercut with notes of musk, vetiver and heliotrope.

This is the month to…

seek the light

My best friend brims with optimism. Life might be hard, but she’ll always have a giggle; work may be dull, but she brings a smile to others as she goes about it; money is tight, but she’s amazing at finding frugal ways to live life to its fullest. Studies show that the way we live when times are good (counting, savouring, relishing those blessings, every day) can dramatically transform the way we cope when life is tough. We all have the ability to foster optimism – but it takes practice. This month, give it a try… even if just to stop and smell spring’s first roses in the middle of an uproarious downpour.

Health + wellness director

ON THE EVE Before founding Aurelia, Claire Vero worked for the pharmaceutical company that developed the cervical cancer vaccine – a cause close to her heart, it led her to unite with beauty expert and blogger Caroline Hirons, who lost her grandmother to the cancer. £10 from every bottle sold of Cell Repair Night Oil, £45, will go to The Eve Appeal, the UK’s only national gynaecological cancer research charity.


M AY 2 0 1 6 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 97


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The Retreat Home i Living

i Recipes i Nutrition i Travel i Books

Quiet is peace. Tranquillity. Quiet “is turning down the volume knob on

life. Silence is pushing the off button – shutting it down. All of it


khaled hosseini, the kite runner

m ay 2 0 1 6 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 99

THE RETREAT } feasting

Farro, capers, herb-baked tomatoes, roast carrots and parmesan 100 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E M AY 2 0 1 6

SALUTE THE SALAD Fresh, zesty, vibrant, wholesome – these beautiful dishes delight the senses and ignite the taste buds


Poached salmon, almond and grapefruit couscous


the retreat } feasting



fresh, sweet and perfectly seasonal salad is a wonderful thing – a gathering that celebrates the very best of that moment in time; that plucks hue, texture and flavour from nature, and serves them up, all together, on one mouthwatering plate. A perfect salad is poetry in motion – something you want to eat with your eyes before digging in with an eager fork. Savour, by Peter Gordon, is described by chef, writer and restaurateur Yottam Ottolenghi as ‘combining great innovation with a massively delicious tummy hug’. It’s a rainbow and riot in places, while being a still and peaceful summer’s garden in others. Simplest ingredients are enhanced with perfect dressings, tumbles of grains and pulses, or simply left to speak for themselves… every bite brings a smile, and a useful note to self: salads are not just for spring and summer.

Grilled carrots, manchego, orange, agave, pecans and sultanas This relatively simple salad will seem all the more fabulous if you use a few different colours of carrots. I found the combination of just two colours worked well and decided against using purple ones. I’ve also made this using baby carrots, which looks and works a treat. Manchego is a fantastic ewes’ milk cheese from La Mancha, near Madrid, in Spain. If you prefer, you can use British Wigmore or Berkswell, Italian pecorino, or some other firm ewes’ milk cheese – something you can shave or slice over the top. Agave syrup is a fabulous, earthy, sweet syrup, which complements the pecans – replace it with maple syrup if you can’t find it. Serves 4 as a starter Serve warm or at room temperature l 600g carrots, peeled,

halved lengthways

ones from Turkey) l 100g pecans, toasted

l 3 tbsp olive oil

and chopped

l 2 oranges, segmented

l 1 spring onion, thinly sliced

l 3 tbsp agave syrup (or

l handful salad leaves

use maple syrup) l 50g sultanas (or golden

(I used rocket) l 60g manchego

raisins – I used lovely green

*offer subject to availability; until 2 may 2016. please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas

STEP ONE Steam or boil the carrots in salted water for 6

READER OFFER Psychologies readers can buy Savour: Salads For All Seasons by Peter Gordon (Jacqui Small, £25) for the special price of £22, including free UK postage and packing*. Call 01903 828503, quoting reference ‘QPG418’.

102 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E M AY 2 0 1 6

minutes. If using baby carrots, cook for 4 minutes. Tip into a colander and leave to drain. Brush with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season with salt and pepper, then cook in a heavy based pan until coloured on both sides and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes depending on their size. Leave to cool. STEP two Mix the orange segments with any of their juice you can squeeze from the ‘core’. Add the agave syrup, sultanas and pecans. Leave for 10 minutes, then mix in the remaining oil. Leave for at least 20 minutes to allow the sultanas to soak up some of the liquid, tossing from time to time. Just before serving, mix in the spring onion. STEP three To serve, lay the carrots on a platter or individual plates. Scatter on the salad leaves, then spoon on the orange, sultana and pecan mixture. Thinly shave the manchego on top just before you serve it. >>>

Grilled carrots, manchego, orange, agave, pecans and sultanas

the retreat } feasting >>>

Farro, herb-baked tomatoes, roast carrots and Parmesan Farro is a grain that has had a lot of attention in recent years. I enjoy its texture and often use it in salads such as this. Roast tomatoes are great in summer, when cooking makes them even sweeter. In cooler months, roasting improves the flavour of hothouse-raised ones.

Poached salmon, almond and grapefruit couscous For this light, healthy meal, poach the salmon in a pan wide and deep enough to hold the pieces in one layer. The couscous can also be served with other meats. Serves 2 as a main course Serve warm or at room temperature

Serves 6 as a starter or side dish l 100g couscous

Serve at room temperature l 300g farro, rinsed

and drained l ½ onion, chopped l 1 bay leaf
 l 3 tbsp baby capers l 2 tbsp red wine vinegar l 3 carrots (I used orange

l 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil l 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves l 6 plum tomatoes, halved

lengthways l 1 tsp roughly chopped

oregano l ½ tsp chopped rosemary

and purple ones), peeled

l 2 handfuls rocket

and tops cut off, halved

l 50g parmesan, shaved


with a sharp knife

STEP one Preheat the oven to 170°C (350°F/Gas mark 4). Put the farro into a medium pan, cover with 3cm of cold water and add the onion and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and put a lid on the pan. Reduce the heat to a rapid simmer and cook until the grains are tender, about 40 minutes. Add 1 tsp of flaky salt after 20 minutes. Drain in a colander, then transfer to a large bowl. Taste for seasoning and mix in the capers and vinegar. Leave to cool. STEP two While the farro is cooking, lay the carrots in a roasting dish, drizzle on 2 tbsp of the oil and half the thyme, season with salt and pepper and add 2 tbsp of water. Roast for about 30 minutes; until you can easily insert a sharp knife through them. Cut each into 5 or 6 pieces. STEP THREE Lay the tomato halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment (to make it easier to clean). Mix the oregano, rosemary and the remaining thyme and 2 tbsp of oil and drizzle this on the tomatoes. Sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the tomatoes have shrunk a little and coloured slightly. STEP four To serve, toss the rocket loosely through the farro and divide among your plates. Sit the carrots and tomatoes on top, pour on any roasting juices and then scatter with the parmesan shavings.

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l 1 carrot, peeled and

coarsely grated (shredded) l 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil l 2 spring onions l 1 small handful flat-leaf

parsley, still on the stalk l 1 grapefruit

each), bones removed but skin left on l 3 tbsp flaked almonds,

lightly toasted and roughly chopped l 1 small handful salad leaves

(I used pea shoots) l 1 lemon, halved

l 2 salmon fillets (150-175g

STEP one Mix the couscous with 100ml of tepid water

and ¼ tsp of salt, and leave for 5 minutes. Mix in the grated carrot and olive oil and leave for 5 minutes. Trim both ends from the spring onions. Thinly slice the green parts and mix into the couscous. Pick the parsley leaves from their stalks, coarsely shred and add to the couscous. Put the parsley stalks and spring onion white ends in a separate pan. Add water to a depth of 4cm and 1 tsp of salt, bring to the boil then reduce to a rapid simmer. Peel three strips of rind from the grapefruit, avoiding any white pith, and add to this poaching stock as it heats up. STEP TWO Gently lower the salmon pieces into the stock, skin side facing down, and bring back to the boil. Turn off the heat, put a lid on the pan and leave for 8-10 minutes, by which time it will be cooked (if the salmon is thin, and submerged, leave it for no more than 4-5 minutes). STEP three Meanwhile, segment the grapefruit, cutting off the peel and pith. Cut each segment into three or four pieces and mix into the couscous along with the almonds and any juice you can squeeze from the grapefruit core. STEP four To serve, divide the couscous among your plates and sit the salad leaves on top. Remove the salmon carefully from the poaching liquid and lay on a plate, skin side facing up. Peel off the skin and carefully scrape away any dark-coloured flesh (the blood line) under the skin using a teaspoon. Break the salmon into flakes and sit it on top of the couscous. Tuck in a lemon half and serve.

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THE RETREAT } nutrition notes

How to…

turn on to turmeric Eve Kalinik explains how, far from being simply a curry staple, turmeric contains some remarkable health properties



very spice has a place in my kitchen, but one is definitely at the top of my list: turmeric. Deeply golden in colour, its vibrant hue is steeped in history and traditionally used in ancient medicinal practices such as Ayurveda. But this punchy spice also has the backing of modern scientific studies that verify its wide-reaching preventative and functional health benefits. This is derived from naturally occurring chemical compounds known as curcuminoids, the most significant of which is curcumin, which give it all of its incredible positive molecular benefits. Curcumin has a justifiable rep as a potent anti-inflammatory that research shows targets and blocks NF-kB – a molecule that switches on inflammatory mediators, and has been linked to chronic diseases, such as arthritis. Curcumin can also help support better management of blood pressure and flow, which makes for an encouraging association with heart disease. And as a potent antioxidant, turmeric helps to protect the body from damaging free radicals, and along with neutralising these substances, it enhances the activity of our own antioxidant enzymes. It may also have neurocognitive benefits due to its positive influence on brain-derived neurotrophic factors and metabolism of amyloid plaques that have been linked to conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and depression.

Moreover, recent evidence suggests a link between turmeric and cancer, where its intracellular actions seem to influence processes such as tumour progression and the natural turnover of cells. And that’s not where this golden spice stops. It has unique properties that slow and speed up certain liver pathways, and so supports natural detoxification, as well as being linked to improvements in skin conditions, such as psoriasis and premature ageing. Most of this research is based on therapeutic dosages of one gram or over, and you would have issues eating all of that in one go, but having even a small daily amount can have cumulative effects. There is one caveat though – you need to eat turmeric with black pepper when cooking and look for bioperine if you are buying a supplement (consult a registered practitioner before taking supplements). Turmeric needs this partner to be properly absorbed, or it pretty much goes right through the digestive tract. It’s also best eaten with a healthy oil, as it’s fat-soluble. Curry works well (make with ghee or coconut oil), or add to salad dressings with sesame oil, black pepper and lemon juice, or into chai lattes and smoothies – with a pinch of black pepper!

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In Nordic homes, light is paramount. ‘This house is filled with soothing shades that reflect the light of southern Sweden, where short winter days and long summer evenings carry a quality that is mirrored by these calming interiors,’ says author Sara Norrman

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THE RETREAT } living

LET THE LIGHT IN Discover how Scandinavian style can help you create a truly tranquil home


Scandinavians take much inspiration from outdoors, choosing understated hues, tactile textures and natural materials to create spaces that are restful, nurturing and easy to live in

M AY 2 0 1 6 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 109

the retreat } living


omes in Nordic countries have a relaxed way of living that is emulated the world over,’ says Sara Norrman, introducing her new book Simply Scandinavian (Ryland Peters & Small, £19.99). Showing us inside an array of beautiful houses, Norrman explains that although they vary in aesthetics, ‘there is an illusive quality that unites them. This could be the unique light on these northern shores or perhaps it is simply the owners’ eternal quest for said light.’ Nature, heritage and traditions are also key factors in the design of Scandinavian homes and, together with the focus on light, they combine to create ‘a style that’s in tune with our desire for comfortable, calm spaces. A style formed by life.’

There are touches of black in all the rooms, to keep the white, grey and neutral colours grounded. These work as a foil for the lighter colours and stop them from looking washed-out

110 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E M AY 2 0 1 6

the retreat } living

Candles are often favoured over electric lighting. ‘Artificial light is so strong and cold, we prefer the warmth and glow – and the atmosphere
of centuries long lost – that candlelight gives’, says the owner of this Swedish home

THE BOOST } living

The owner of this Copenhagen apartment has teamed antique pieces with modern artwork to great effect against a typically understated backdrop of pale walls and floors

THE RETREAT } living

Wilton Carlyle beaded grey mirror, £172.50, One World Trading

Chantilly candelabra, £49.50, Within Home

Urchin pendant light in walnut, £295, Tom Raffield

Look Left canvas print, £345, Loaf

Cushion in Arran Brown fabric, £39.50 per m, Ian Mankin

Coral shaped porcelain fruit bowl, £39.99, Zara Home

Pale and interesting

To replicate Scandinavian style in your home, it’s important to focus on the basics, setting aside all notion of decorating trends. ‘These homes are not put together with colour charts and swatches, but with a gut feeling of what’s right for the building and the families who live there,’ explains Sara Norrman. ‘Furnishings are understated and sparsely arranged – a sense of space, freedom of movement and views between rooms are considered essential to creating an airy, light feel. Decoration comes in the form of elegant, lightenhancing accessories, such as silver candlesticks and light ceramics.’

Metal stool, £69.99, Zara Home

Bowl of faux lavender and mint, £99, Oka

Alama square basket, £8.95, Nkuku at Amara

Metal pillar candle holders, from £6.50, Cox & Cox

READER OFFER Psychologies readers can buy Simply Scandinavian for the special price of £14.99* including p&p (RRP £19.99, Ryland Peters & Small). Call Macmillan Direct on 01256 302699 and quote reference ‘GI9’.


Lotte bench, £195, Cox & Cox

M AY 2 0 1 6 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 113

NEW GROWTH From pondering the meaning of life to diving into the centre of eccentric family life, this month read your way into new emotional landscapes

the retreat } books Not Working


by Lisa Owens (Picador, £12.99)

by Curtis Sittenfeld

Claire Flannery is a 20-something who has ditched her job intending to find one thing that will give her life meaning. She ponders the world around her, falls out with her mum, worries about her dad, grows suspicious of her boyfriend and trips herself up over and over again on her journey of self-discovery. It’s funny, sharp and full of eagle-eyed observations that will make you see the world afresh.

The Other Mrs Walker

Jane Austen gets a modern shake-up in this fizzy, funny take on Pride and Prejudice. Liz Bennet is a writer on a feminist magazine, her potential BF is a haughty, handsome neurosurgeon – Fitzwilliam Darcy. But back in her childhood home she comes in for exactly the same relationship interference that so bedeviled Austen’s Elizabeth. Some things never change.

The One-in-a-Million Boy

by Mary Paulson-Ellis (Mantle, £12.99)

by Monica Wood (Headline Review, £12.99)

Margaret Penny is at the end of her tether and heads home to her elderly mum’s flat. Things take a turn for the mysterious when she resolves to discover the identity of a dead woman, so that her burial can go ahead. The compelling story criss-crosses time, heading back to 1921 and up to 2011 and reveals the secrets and sorrows of a group of women, whose pasts are linked by a collection of curious, resonant objects.

This is a beguiling, heart-wrenching and funny book about families and how they come undone and are re-made, in unexpected ways. In this case there’s ornery Miss Ona Vitkus, 104, sharp as a tack, and hiding a world of secrets; the sweet odd little boy of the title, with his record-breaking obsessions; and Quinn, the befuddled father who can’t do right for doing wrong. Absolutely gorgeous.

The book that MADE me

Author Andrew Solomon on Elizabeth Bishop’s Complete Poems


(The Borough Press, £14.99)

‘I read Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “The Fish” the summer I was 13, studied her work subsequently at school, and have drawn the epigraphs for two of my four books from her work. Her words are compressed, meaning squeezed into every phrase. Some of the poems are humorous; some are quietly agonising; all are deeply wise and subtly compassionate. They recognise and forgive human folly. Written without authorial vanity in a style of deceptive transparency, they are secretly riddled with intended contradictions. Displaced in some ways by her lesbianism, Bishop chose a geographical removal to Brazil, and her poems speak from outside the situations they describe. They are, nonetheless, courageous evocations of inwardness, of the isolation that can inhere in fierce love. They also bespeak the impossibility of the art of reconciling with loss; and the finality of human experience: “since/ our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown”.’

The Wellcome Book Prize Worth £30,000, the Wellcome Book Prize celebrates the best new books that engage with an aspect of medicine, health or illness, showcasing the breadth and depth of our encounters with medicine through exceptional works of fiction and non-fiction. Pictured are this year’s shortlist: NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman (Allen & Unwin, £16.99), Signs For Lost Children by Sarah Moss (Granta, £12.99), Playthings by Alex Pheby (Galley Beggar Press, £11), The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink (Picador £14.99), The Outrun by Amy Liptrot (Canongate, £14.99) and It’s All In Your Head by Suzanne O’Sullivan (Vintage, £16.99). The 2016 winner will be announced on 25 April.

Andrew Solomon’s new collection of political essays, ‘Far and Away’, is out in August. His seminal work on family and identity, ‘Far From the Tree’, won the Wellcome Book Prize 2014

M AY 2 0 1 6 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 115


Jane Alexander is drawn to one of the most barren landscapes on earth – and finds in the vast emptiness an unlikely antidote to loneliness

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the retreat } travel


or as long as I can remember I’ve had a desert compulsion. There is something about that emptiness that has always beckoned. It’s not just me, either. Right through history, from the Biblical prophets to Jesus to modern-day seekers, the desert has whispered a siren song to the soul. It undulates through our psyche, slip-sliding snakewise through the world’s religions and starring as a character in its own right in our culture. My own desert love affair was fuelled by films such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Sheltering Sky and The English Patient. Where did it start? I can’t be sure, however The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis (my favourite Narnia story) might have caused the first frisson. By definition, a desert is an arid region, where the annual rainfall is less than 10 inches, but of course it’s so much more than that. It has always been perceived as the ultimate wilderness, a place where

people go to disconnect from the world in hopes of connecting to the soul. I have flirted with deserts for years, looking sideways at their boundaries before drawing back again. Then I received an invitation to go on a Reclaim Your Self yoga retreat deep in the Eastern Gobi in Outer Mongolia.

Fighting fire with fire

Curious timing. I’d been feeling lonely, bereft almost. I travel a lot, by myself, and never mind my own company, but recently it had become oppressive. I was starting to see my travelling as a distraction, another way of avoiding thinking about my self, my life, my relationships. Yet here I was, heading into a big nothingness. Maybe at some subconscious level I felt the cure for loneliness or lost-ness might lie, not among crowds, but in empty spaces? Maybe you have to fight fire with fire, emptiness with emptiness, an inte>>> rior desert with an exterior one.

M AY 2 0 1 6 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 117

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Jane at her ger; yoga teacher Emma Henry; around the camp fire; Jane meditating; a Gobi camel with herder; on the railway with the Trans-Mongolian Express

the retreat } travel My journey itself was a meditation on loneliness. I flew to Moscow, then across thousands of miles of emptiness to Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia. It’s a place that didn’t even have permanent buildings until the 1900s because desert people are nomads. Then an eight-hour journey on the mighty Trans-Mongolian Express, watching the landscape grow larger, flatter, and more arid. Lightning forked on the horizon. After another two hours by bus, I reached my destination – a remote migratory ger (Mongolian for ‘yurt’) camp for the retreat. I felt completely out of balance. The yoga was strong and my body was weak. I struggled through it, judging myself against others and finding myself sorely lack­ing. I was straight back to childhood – the ugly duckling at the back of ballet class, last one to be picked for rounders. I sobbed like a six year old. ‘Nudos amat eremos,’ (‘the desert loves to strip bare’) St Jerome wrote in a letter to Heliodorus. ‘The emptiness of the desert makes it possible to learn the almost impossible: the joyful acceptance of our uselessness,’ philosopher Ivan Illich wrote in his foreword to Carlo Carretto’s Letters from the Desert. If I hadn’t been crying so hard, I’d have laughed. I’d only just arrived and the desert was challenging me, showing me all too baldly my limits. I retreated to my ger, a comforting mini-world with its circular frame and central fire.

main photograph previous page: nick rains/corbis. this page: RICHARD PILNICK

Let the landscape lead

Soon I felt better and headed out again. Around me lay an unruly landscape of gravel, sand, stones, charismatic rock formations. Some were beast-like – a bear, a turtle, a sphinx, a snake. Some were monsters. It put me in mind of the quote by Belden Lane, who wrote The Solace of Fierce Landscapes (Oxford University Press, £12.99). ‘In wild places, terror and growth-towards-wholeness walk hand in hand.’ I moved more slowly, letting the landscape lead me, looking for patterns on the desert floor.

I was guided by plant and rock routes, stepping carefully, starting to notice small things. It felt like ‘medicine’, like old shamanic practice. Surely no coincidence; this is the land of shamans, where the landscape has been treated as holy for millennia. I may have been in the middle of nowhere but it was not unknown: its landscape was charted in the psyche of its people. And although many would find its contours forbidding and cruel, I felt at home.

I am nothing, I “thought, but that’s

fine, just fine, because I am an intrinsic part of the world… we all are


I lay back against a broad flat rock. It was warmed by the sun, secure and embracing. I realised that I was holding myself so tightly that even my jaw and toes ached. I let go and melted into the stone, staring up at the huge dome of the sky. I felt tiny – a gnat plastered on to the surface of our planet. A tiny Janeatom, spinning in space. I started to laugh at the stupidity of my angst. As the days went by I found myself slowly being pulled back together. The yoga felt almost an intrusion: my true practice was out there in the rocks. Sometimes I picked up stones – some I kept; some left my hands after a short while. Some I thought I’ll come back to later, but couldn’t find again. I settled down on another broad rock. For a while I lay listening to desert sounds – the wrrp, wrrp, wrrp of wings as birds swooped low, barely grazing my body; the tdzz tdzz of an insect. I sat up and watched a fly settle on the rock beside me. It flexed its antennae then cleaned its back legs. Its wings gleamed iridescent. It was not worrying about how it is to be a fly; it didn’t feel awkward.

It was beautiful. In its place. Just being. ‘One initially enters the desert to be stripped of self, purged by its relentless deprivation of every­thing once considered important,’ says Lane. I cried – the gentle tears of healing. I am nothing, I thought, but that’s fine, just fine, because I am an intrinsic part of the world… we all are. Nothing and everything.

Everything in its place

‘When we enter the desert, we step out of the external world and dive deeply into the interior one,’ says Kerry Walters, author of Soul Wilderness (Paulist Press, £8.99). ‘We endure the shrinkage and the vanishment of hope… We slim down progressively, withdrawing from everything we once were, becoming a decreation for the sake of re-creation. We face non-being in order to be.’ The desert is wild and vast and apart. Yet for me the Gobi was a welcoming place of simplicity, acceptance and clarity. I came home feeling neither lonely nor lost. I brought with me two stones – one black, one white – and, when I hold them, I remember the rocks, the fly, the huge sky… and my place within it all.

getting there Jane Alexander stayed as a guest of Reclaim Your Self retreats and Nomadic Journeys ( The Mongolia Reclaim Your Yoga retreat dates for 2016 are 24 July-1 August and 2-10 August. Prices from £2,095, including 2 nights in a four-star hotel in Ulaanbaator, 1 day on the TransMongolian Railway, 6 nights in a luxury ger camp, daily Jivamukti yoga and meditation, full-board vegan meals, a camel cart excursion deep into the desert and all transfers. For more details and to book, go to You can fly to Ulaanbaator from the UK in around 13 hours with Turkish Airlines, Aeroflot and Air China, or fly via Hong Kong with Virgin, BA and MIAT. Prices from £900.

MAY 2 0 1 6 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 119

THE RETREAT } travel

Just for the weekend…

Enjoy movie magic

The Bryant Park Hotel is perfectly located if you want to check out the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival in Manhattan

CITY OF DREAMS Be a part of it, NY style


Film buff Amerley Ollennu takes a bite out of the Big Apple HOLLYWOOD MAY BE the birthplace of cinema, but New York is the ultimate movie set. The minute you land, it hits you, everything looks oddly familiar, yet new. As I walk through Manhattan I’m reminded of some of my favourite films – Big Business, Working Girl and Beaches. These are the films that left me believing women could do anything and that the Big Apple was the place to do it. My teenage self had no concept of visas and green cards, but in my 30s I realise that the real magic of the city comes not from living there, but being able to fly in and out. Bryant Park lies in the middle of Manhattan, but you’d be surprised at how quiet the area is. I came to enjoy the city and the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, making my stay at the Bryant Park Hotel the perfect location. A boutique affair, rooms are decidedly modern and I admit I had a Pretty Woman moment in the tub. The movie moments didn’t stop there, as the hotel is home to

trendy Japanese-inspired restaurant Koi (you must try the crispy rice and black cod) and cocktail joint Cellar bar, where I enjoyed a Manhattan girls’ night out. Movie screenings are held by the hotel in its private screening room, so you can watch the latest films in intimate surroundings. Frankly, if I wasn’t keen to discover more of New York, I would have been happy staying right there. I walked around the city for hours, soaking it all in and visited the New York Public Library, which always reminds me of my favourite childhood film, Ghostbusters. This summer a new Ghostbusters film will be released, but with an all-girl cast. Perhaps 2016 will be the year girl power makes a movie comeback? I hope so. The Bryant Park Hotel, 40 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018 (,, 001 212 869 0100). Room rates for a superior queen room start at $295 (exclusive of taxes at 14.75% + $3.50). For flights, visit

Nolita New York market bag, $68, Otte

Wildfox New York sweatshirt, £99, Very


M AY 2 0 1 6 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E 121

Stockistss Find out where to buy the products featured in this month’s issue

A Amara Aurelia Probiotic Skincare A Vogel




Harvey Norman House of Fraser

Nars Neom Organics Neptune Nordic House


Birch & Brook Bobbi Brown

Ian Mankin


C Cox & Cox

Liz Earle Loaf




Marks & Spencer Marquis & Dawe

G GallinĂŠe

O Ocado Oggetto Oka One World Trading Company Original BTC Otte

P Planet Organic Plenish

R Red Candy



Steenbergs Organic Sweetpea & Willow Swoon Editions


T Tom Raffield

U Urban Decay

122 P S Y C H O L O G I E S

M A G A Z I N E M AY 2 0 1 6

W Within Home Wunderworkshop

Y Yumi

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RECENTLY, AND SOMEWHAT surprisingly, is so far beyond my understanding that I regard them I had a couple of friends living with me for a few as aliens, particularly if they are actually speaking months. It’s only surprising because I don’t actually to me at the time. What strange and outlandish like people staying with me. It’s not that I dislike language is this? The two friends who were living people. On the whole I love them – I just don’t love with me understand that unbreakable rule. One was them talking at full volume all day. I’d make a my stepdaughter who would say, in a hushed whisper, hopeless Italian. ‘Is it safe now?’ The other would simply hand me a cup I never have music playing – although sometimes of tea in total silence and disappear. I listen to the radio when I’m cooking but, on the When it comes to volume control, I have a friend whole, I’d rather live in total silence. I can spend days who, I only discovered when she came to stay, has without going out or speaking to anybody. I even tell no off-switch. The lights were blazing, day and night. the cats to shut up. One of them, Martha, is madly She talked, and she talked. She talked so much she sociable and talkative. She thinks she’s a dog. couldn’t hear the morning rule, so when I walked into The only things that I actually speak to (shout at) my bedroom with my cup of wake-up tea, I found her when I’m on my own are numbers and spreadsheets, standing in the middle of it. I screamed in shock and trying to get them to talk sense. But as my she screamed, until we were both shrieking like accountant says, ‘Sally, there are people who victims in a horror movie. I suppose I can’t blame her. are good with figures and people who are not. It’s probably not very normal for a guest to be faced You are not.’ Which is why I pay him. If I didn’t, with a hostess screaming in terror when she the Inland Revenue wouldn’t simply be camped encounters you. But the bedroom? Seriously? outside my door, they would have moved in. No off-switch when it comes to privacy either. Speaking of moving in, I have a theory that I know some people can’t stand silence, but this people have on- and off-switches. I’m not a creature was a spectacular wall of noise. When she cooked, of particular habit. I don’t mind in the least if she talked to the kitchen and enjoyed a chat with the somebody moves the coffee pot or stacks the cupboards, every single one of which she flung wide dishwasher in strange combinations, and they can open. As they are at head height, I’m amazed she hurl around the cushions on the sofa as they please. didn’t knock herself unconscious. Actually, I rather I don’t follow them around, tidying up. There is only hoped she would; just for a moment. one rule in my house, which is that you After she left (and, blessedly, she only Sally Brampton is a do not speak to me in the morning until stayed for one night) I had to lie down for journalist, agony aunt, I have had a cup of tea. Before that, I am 24 hours. In silence. If she ever wants to and author of ‘Shoot The Damn Dog: A physically incapable of speech. Some come and stay again, I’m going to have Memoir Of Depression’ people actually wake up talking. This to ask her to wear a gag. (Bloomsbury, £7.99) 130 P S YC H O L O G I E S M A G A Z I N E M AY 2 0 1 6


The sound of silence

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Showing up It’s spring, the perfect time to open windows and let the air and new ideas circulate. But it’s always good to let go of a few th...

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Showing up It’s spring, the perfect time to open windows and let the air and new ideas circulate. But it’s always good to let go of a few th...