Back in my early twenties, a friend and I pondered the conundrum of how we would know when we were grown-up. I am not certain I know now some four decades later but it popped into my mind because when you read this I will have recently celebrated my 65th birthday. And that sounds pretty grown–up.
For me now, being grown up is about living more easily and smoothly and contentedly with myself and other people, not getting my knickers in a twist as often, being happy with small things (my husband’s eyes crinkling when he smiles, a good cup of coffee, a sunny day, flowers – and nuzzling my three horses) and also being able to deal with big stuff better.
While I can see the blessings of ageing, I do want to feel and look as good as possible while the years tick by. Over the last 18 years, my co-author (and valued friend) Jo Fairley and I have written up all our best discoveries in our Beauty Bible books, alongside the tried & tested products rigorously trialled by our ten women consumer panels. I love natural beauty and health and our latest book (the eighth!) The Ultimate Natural Beauty Bible is stuffed with award-winning products and information.
Here are some of the things I count on and the best bits of advice I have been given over the years.
Practise mindfulness: Essentially this is living in the moment with your mind, brain and body joined up rather than fractured incoherently. It means you can stop re-living, resenting or regretting the past and fretting about the future. It means we can manage our thoughts so that negative ones – anxiety, anger or obsession – recede into the background rather than overwhelm us. It is about ‘noticing’ rather than doing things on autopilot. For me as I write, it is tasting the olives on my tongue, hearing the birds singing, washing clanking in the drier, and the tap of my computer keys. Feeling my breath going in and my shoulders sinking – like many computer users, I tend to hold my breath and hunch my shoulders, poking my head out like a tortoise so my neck muscles end up aching. Mindfulness makes life so much easier – and I swear the lines soften slightly.
Sleep: I love a good night’s sleep but I have had episodes of insomnia for many years. Now if I wake in the small hours with a buzzing brain, I make myself hot milk with cinnamon, nutmeg and honey and read a novel. I don’t work and I don’t make decisions because psychiatrist David Servan-Schreiber, author of Healing Without Freud or Prozac (brilliant), told me our brains can’t process things reliably at that time. To get enough sleep, I need to be in bed by ten pm at least twice a week.
Five top tips:
- laugh a lot and never watch news at night, or violent films – a DVD of old TV dramas (from Dickens to The West Wing) is very soothing
- be nice – it’s so much easier
- don’t live in the problem, live in the solution
- listen – really listen – to what people say, and respond to their situation rather than relating it to yourself (unless it is appropriate)
- be straightforward (but polite) – it avoids all sorts of difficulties
Value yourself: ‘God don’t make junk,’ a very large Texan said at an AA meeting many years ago. (I was an alcoholic and addict until I was 29.) But we don’t have to be perfect; we allow our friends to be imperfect and we need to let ourselves make mistakes too.
Everyone has a talent: you just need to find it and do it.
Skincare: give your skin a little TLC and it will reward you bountifully. At night, cleanse thoroughly, put on a serum and a facial oil or night cream. AM – splash with water, apply serum and day cream; let that sink in before you put on foundation. Use a mask on your face (and hands) every week – pop one on your hair at the same time. Always use sun protection. Have a regular facial if possible.
Make-up: supermodel Lauren Hutton told me, ‘as you get older, use less make-up better’. I would add ‘with a very light hand’ as there’s nothing more off-putting than a make-up mask. Hydration is vital, both for skincare and make-up – the dewier your complexion the younger it looks. I use primer sometimes and definitely for long days or evenings as I never get to touch up my make-up, then a light foundation (vital to get the right shade to match your skin), concealer on blemishes and to brighten my eye area, a pop of cream blush, brown/black mascara, eyeliner (little bit smudged into the lashline), brow pencil (almost no brows left and it makes a huge difference), lip pencil (for a crisp outline) and sheer lippy.
Eat well and take well-chosen supplements: find the food that suits you. Grains or fizzy drinks make me bloat and sugar makes me jumpy. I love eggs for breakfast and protein and veggies for the rest, with fruit for snacks – and a little dark chocolate as a treat. One cup of good coffee a day is a staple. I always take omega-3 essential fatty acids, vitamin D3, Co-enzyme Q10 in the morning and magnesium at night. (And I am very well!)