Beauty Tips

What Is Earthing And Will It Reduce Your Stress Levels?

chinese bells

When (to paraphrase Carole King’s lyrics on ‘Tapestry’) did you last feel the earth move under your feet…? Maybe not move – unless you’re in an earthquake zone – but experience its grounding, balancing and (literally earthing) benefits? Well, if it’s been a while, can I recommend that this lunchtime, you get out there, lie down on some lawn or in a park, and soak up the soothing vibes?

Oh, this is going to sound all very woo-woo, no doubt. Perhaps you don’t feel that you need ‘grounding’. But in a world in which I spend most of my time ‘in my head’ – thinking, looking at a computer, and thinking some more – I know that there’s almost nothing that makes me feel better, quicker, than a bit of earth energy. Without it, I feel vulnerable and liable to be thrown off balance at any time. A bit like a leaf, fluttering in the wind, sometimes.

But give me a good grounding session, and I’m rooted – like a big tree. Resistant to the daily equivalent of strong winds – those inevitable events which can throw you off course. I sleep better. I’m more focused, have fewer scattered thoughts (and am less likely to pick up my phone every two minutes to check something or other completely irrelevant). I am also probably kinder to everyone around me. Less snarly, more smile-y.

If you’re feeling cynical, think back to the last time you were on a sandy beach. Wiggling your toes. Walking along the shoreline. You were connected to the earth’s powerful energy. (Let’s not argue about this: gravity is what stops us from floating off into the universe, weightless as astronauts. It’s powerful stuff.) Didn’t it feel good? I’ve a hunch, actually, that one of the reasons we feel so good after a seaside holiday isn’t just the sea itself, but the time we spend with our feet on the sand.

As a child, there was nothing I liked more than going out and lying in the garden, looking up at the sky. My mother accused me of being a daydreamer – but actually, on some level I’m sure I knew I was soaking up the earth vibes. Crammed into shoes, sitting at a desk for much of the day, rushing from A to B, it’s easy to lose touch with how that feels. For me, my love of deep, vibrational music (see my article ‘Good Vibrations’) is part of that need to feel grounded.

I am drawn to essential oils with a grounding effect, too – resinous and resonant oils like frankincense, sandalwood, vetiver and patchouli (old hippie that I am), which to me almost thrum. (Myrrh, cedarwood, benzoin, black spruce, petitgrain and rosewood are said to have a similar effect, though I don’t have them in my arsenal.) Inspired by my friend Kathy Phillips (creator of the This Works range), I often wear a drop of pure frankincense oil on my chest. I find this incredibly ‘tethering’, particularly on days when I have to take the Tube (which may actually be beneath the ground but definitely doesn’t have a de-stressing effect on me, anyway).

And I now discover there’s an actual ‘earthing’ movement going on, driven by the belief that being isolated from the Earth – by rubber and plastic (our shoes), wood, plastic, laminate and asphalt – creates a disconnection from the earth’s energy that can result in a feeling of fatigue. They go so far as to call the earth’s energy ‘Vitamin G’ (and even Shabir hasn’t managed to find a supplement which captures that, yet!) My husband, meanwhile, is a massive devotee of ‘earthing’. I always poked fun at him for getting out into our garden in the morning for his regular dew bath, and wearing Vivo Barefoot shoes – but now I totally get where he’s coming from. (NB I’ve come to realise it is usual for Craig – as the man who introduced us to brown rice, sesame, patchouli oil and even the Afghan coat, for his sins – to be about two decades in advance of the rest of the planet. And indeed his wife.)

Earthing, or grounding, works – so it’s believed – because the body is mostly water and minerals, and is a good conductor of electricity (electrons). There are gazillions of electrons on the Earth’s surface – but synthetically-soled shoes stop us receiving that energy. The idea is to get out there, shoe-less, and connect with it as often as we can. Not easy, in a city or for someone who lives in a flat. But definitely not impossible.

Having said that, when I’m feeling particularly frazzled, I still find that I can still effectively ‘ground’ myself, just sitting in my desk chair – so long as I’ve got bare feet. (And as long as the weather permits, I always go barefoot at home. Winter? You’ll find me in tights, socks and furry slippers – and definitely feeling way less grounded, as a result.) I place my feet flat on the floor and b-r-e-a-t-h-e for a couple of minutes – counting to ten, with one for in, two for the out-breath – imagining the feeling of rooting down into the floor. When life feels overwhelming, I find it an amazing quick fix.

It’s not the only weapon I have in my arsenal for dealing with a crazy-busy, too-fast-paced life. I meditate, do yoga – also wonderfully, famously grounding – and listen to Native American drumming music, as well as gongs and handpan music (which you can find on iTunes if you’re unfamiliar with it). But more and more, when life threatens to overwhelm, I just like to get out there and make like a kid, lying flat on my back and staring at the clouds, or walking barefoot in the dew.

Carole King was definitely onto something.

Why We All Need A Telescope And A Microscope

pink pencils

We all need heroes in this world, and one of mine – notwithstanding the fact that she went to jail for insider trading – is Martha Stewart, creator of a homewares and mega-media empire in the States. It’s not because of her gorgeous floral arrangements, or her gardening tips, or the drool-worthy recipes in Martha Stewart Living, her glossy lifestyle magazine. (Sad but true: being a great believer in the power of home-making – as a solace not just for self, but for the family and much-loved friends who gravitate to ours – I still have every issue ever published, which means over 20 years’ worth!)

I like the way Martha’s made a business out of style, and taste, and reassured me that just because I may want to decompress from a week of 18 hour days by organising my linen closet or my gift-wrapping supplies, that’s OK; it doesn’t mean I’m not intelligent, and it doesn’t mean I’m not a feminist. It means I just like things to be nice, too.

But what I really admire Martha for is an excellent book that she wrote called The Martha Rules. It’s a brilliant how-to book for women, in particular, setting out on an entrepreneurial journey – so good, in fact, that I’ve gifted it to lots of young women embarking on start-ups. But the lesson I really took away from it is the importance of having two tools: a microscope and a telescope. Martha was referring to business – and how important it is to step back from working on the detail, to look at the bigger picture and how your business sits in the wider landscape. But what I took away from that book – and what I try to apply to my life, not just my ventures – is the telescope lesson.

Today, all of us spend our lives fixated on tiny screens, on problem-solving, on figuring out a way to deal with one crisis after another, whether it’s a sick kid who unexpectedly throws a spanner in the works (or rather the working week), a broken dishwasher (my current domestic status update), a lost bank card (er, actually also my current status update), whatever. Entire days – no weeks! – can disappear, simply dealing with everyday life, without us ever taking a moment to stand back and look at that bigger picture.

And it’s just so, so vital to do that – because it’s only by looking at things from afar that we realise a) what’s really important in life, and b) what needs changing. Fact: life is short. Way too short to spend it mindlessly dealing with trivia (trust me, nobody’s going to go to their grave wishing they’d spent more time on Twitter), or lurching from one crisis to another, or generally watching the days slip between our fingers. And this isn’t just about stopping to smell the roses (or right now, the lily of the valley which are flourishing near my back gate and I’m spending too little time up-close-and-personal with). How often have you read about someone with a life-threatening illness talk about how it was such a wake-up call, and it made them realise what really mattered (whether that was spending time with family or a partner, or quitting a job they didn’t enjoy, or maybe even ticking that climb up Kilimanjaro off the bucket list)? Answer: all too often, because for many of us it’s only when something dramatic happens that we get to look down that telescope.

So: how to do that more often? Well, one way is meditating. I’ve written about that before – and personally, I now swear by an app called Calm (check it out at calm.com). For ‘big picture’ stuff, perhaps think about taking an actual course in meditation – not just because it’s a great way to learn to focus, but because there’s something about signing up to learn anything that can make us think: ‘Shouldn’t I be finding time to do more of this, in my life…?’ Which can perhaps nudge us to do more new things, rather than just more of the same.

Holidays are great for ‘big picture’ stuff, too. (As in, perhaps: ‘Do I really want to be doing this stressful/unenjoyable/dull job that I am going back to next week/in a fortnight – or should I be thinking about looking for other challenges and new opportunities?’) For me, though, it’s daily walking that helps me with the big picture stuff. Almost as if I’ve got an invisible telescope packed in my pocket, alongside my phone and house keys.

Recently, I had a big challenge with one of my ventures. A tricky conundrum that nobody could seem to solve – not business-threatening, but something that needed a new approach so we could move forward when we’d been going round in circles. One morning, partly because it was just gloriously sunny, I absented myself from the office and my team and took myself off for a long, blustery, blue-skied seaside walk. A few miles. Instead of whiling away my morning answering what always feels like a deluge of e-mails, I chewed on my metaphoric pencil, as I put one foot in front of the other – and hey, presto: after a mile or so, I had the required brainwave. Ta-dah! I took the solution back to the team, we actioned it – and could move forward again. But I absolutely, 100% know that wouldn’t have happened if I’d been at my desk, sweating the small stuff and dealing with detail.

So I invite you: make this the month you invest in yourself – and your life – by trying to spend time looking at things from afar. After all, if Galileo could discover the moons of Jupiter (and more) by staring down his telescope, what heavenly future can you make for yourself, just by spending a little time standing back from the world…?

PS. In her intro to The Martha Rules, my hero Martha does acknowledge the jail term and the lessons it taught her – so it’s not like she’s brushing that under the carpet with some posh broom! She’s clearly not proud of what happened. But I also admire that she didn’t let a huge, image-damaging incident hold her back. Which might just be fodder for a future editorial, I suspect…

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Perfume

toppled empty perfume bottle

A couple of weeks ago, following in the footsteps of Shabir, I did a fun-tastic Facebook Live with Trinny Woodall. Formerly one-half of ‘& Susannah’, she is now a Grade A beauty expert, bringing that same famous critical eye to all the beauty products she reviews – often HILARIOUSLY, by the way, but always informatively. What is less well-known is that she adores perfume, so we’d been workshopping the idea of me sharing the knowledge I’ve acquired over the years – which have led me down the path of founding The Perfume Society – with Trinny’s audience.

 

Boy, did we have a blast. (You can watch it on her YouTube channel – IN MY BATHROOM… with Jo Fairley.) I spent a lot of the hour-long chatathon answering the sort of questions that I hear time and again, about fragrance. So I thought for this month’s editorial, I’d address some of the things that people consistently seem to find most baffling, about scent. Read More…

Ayurveda: What Your Dosha Can Say About You

Ayuvedic tea

Health fads may come and go. But you can’t really argue with a mind-body health system that’s been around, so it’s said, for up to 5,000 years, when Indian monks were seeking new ways to be healthy. (For translation purposes, ‘ayur’ means life force, or vital energy, while ‘veda’ means science.)

Now, I’d always been interested in Ayurveda – in a magazine-reader-fun-questionnaire sort of way. You’ve probably done one yourself: answered a list of questions asking about body shape, energy levels, preferred foods, whether or not you tend to feel hot and cold, etc. I’d figured out that I was classified as ‘pitta’ – but never taken it much further than that. (Pitta is a ‘dosha’ – basically, doshas are your constitution. The other two are vata and kapha, more of which anon.) Read More…

A Shed Of One’s Own

beach huts

If Virginia Woolf was writing today, she could well have titled her famous essay A Shed of One’s Own, rather than A Room of One’s Own. With property prices the way they are, the chance of having the luxury of an entire room to yourself are pretty slender – at least until those human fledglings fly the nest and you can cartwheel naked round the kitchen to The Rolling Stones to your heart’s content. But for most women, it’s still hugely important to have a place to go at home – and increasingly, that’ll mean at the end of the garden – where we can get away from it all for some ‘alone time’.

This is hard when you’ve children careering around, a husband who can’t so much as scramble an egg or work a washing machine, elderly and befuddled parents – or, in my case, when you have people who come to work in your house every day. So, going beyond ‘me-time’, I am a great believer in carving out some ‘me-space’. It might be a nook off the kitchen. A corner of a bedroom. A desk or a chair on a landing. Or – the dream – a shed. Read More…

Apps That Can Make You Happier

floatinf island meditation

There are those who say that being wedded to our phones is bad for our mental health. But – notwithstanding the fact that in 2018, I am setting a time for a maximum of five minutes on social media at any one time (to avoid being sucked ever deeper into that rabbit hole) – I actually think that our phones are good for our minds, bodies and spirits, too.

OK, your phone is not an ashram. It’s not a yoga class. It’s definitely not a shrink. But I definitely think it’s perfectly possible to change your smartphone from a time bandit to a life-enhancing gadget. Personally, I rely on several different apps in the course of a single day to de-stress, to take some time out from the frenetic pace and just chill, to sleep better – and even to up my fitness levels.

Read More…