If you’ve ever shuddered at the question, ‘What sort of music do you listen to?’ for fear of not sounding cool enough – take a leaf out of Alex Jones’ book. Jones knows a good tune is all about the joy.
“If anyone else listened to my headphones while I was running, they’d be appalled! Unless they also like motivating themselves with The Greatest Showman,” confesses the presenter, best known for fronting the BBC’s much-loved The One Show. “I have got, by other people’s standards, the worst taste in music. I know my husband certainly thinks so, but I think it’s obviously the best.
“I do like a bit of Adele, Michael Bublé, Sam Smith – anything I can sing along to and I’ll be there doing 10 squats. I just don’t care! I maybe get half an hour, 40 minutes to myself, and I just really try and enjoy it.”
Jones has teamed up with AXA Health on their new Feelgood Health campaign (hence the squats talk). A survey by the brand found 84% of UK adults say music is important to their mental and physical health. AXA’s created a series of playlists, or people can create their own, via their online Feelgood Health Hub, to encourage the nation to ‘get moving with music’.
“It’s not about turning into the next Mo Farah,” says Carmarthenshire-born Jones, 43, who now lives in London with husband Charlie Thomson and their sons, Teddy, four, and Kit who’ll be two in May. “It’s about looking after yourself – taking a little bit of time in your day to do something for you, so you can balance all the rest of the chaos.”
Here, Jones tells us more about her own approach to all that balancing…
This campaign is all about the feelgood factor and not putting too much pressure on things – is that something you relate to?
“Exactly. You can feel pressure with all these people achieving amazing things in lockdown. It’s very easy to give one version on social media, you don’t see the whole picture, but there are so many people doing the most complex yoga – I’m like, ‘Oh god!’ We’re all up against it in some way or other – this is about just finding a playlist that puts a smile on your face and helps you get through this shambles, really. Music changes your mindset and can really alter your mood. Just putting music on in the kitchen can really transform your day.
“For Teddy’s fourth birthday recently, we put his kind of playlist on – Frozen songs and all the greats. Just that, a bit of a bubble machine, and all four of us danced like maniacs in the kitchen. It was really fun. Those little things can really shift your mood.
“Those people who are like: you need to meditate – sorry, what?! Lying still? I do that when I sleep! That for me might be having a nice bath, I try to do that – God it’s not even once a week, maybe once every two weeks – and that’s really nice. And I suppose my meditation, which is really bad, is when the little one is having a nap on the weekend, and we go, ‘Right, let’s watch a film!’ We’ll get the popcorn, and then myself and Charlie will fall asleep. But that’s the downtime, and I think you’ve got to find those opportunities really.”
How else are you getting through these stressful times?
“I suppose you look at what your priorities are, in a situation like this, because it’s impossible to stay on top of everything. Some things have to go aside. I really thought about it, and I thought: ‘OK, I really do have to go to my job every day, because that’s always given us a routine and has helped keep things sort of normal’. But my priority is my boys’ wellbeing, really. Even though this is a very odd time, I don’t want them to look and it and think there’s something odd going on, because it’s quite scary and full-on.
“Teddy’s like, ‘Mama, will we be doing socially distanced?’ And when we go to the supermarket, he’s asking, ‘Have you got your mask?’ It is scary for somebody who’s literally just become a little boy from a toddler. So our real priority is keeping at home fun, so if they do remember any of it, they remember it as a time that we were all together a lot. I think that’s all we can do, really. So, I want to try and do a good job there, but everything else – if the washing is piling up, or the kitchen looks like it’s been burgled, which is does – you can’t do it all, can you?”
How are you looking after your own health and wellbeing?
“Well, we did lay down an extra layer of misery to January by doing Dry January and Veganuary – I don’t know what we were thinking! But it’s been good. I’m not a huge meat-eater and we try and educate the boys about the planet and practice what we preach with that. You do find you have to cook from scratch more, and we were eating vegetables like nobody’s business! I’m not sure it’s something we’ll keep up, but we’ll probably try to have meat maybe once or twice a week, instead of every day.
A cup of tea is everything…
“It’s the dairy really – I can’t give up tea with normal milk. A cup of tea is everything. And Dry January – we’re not keeping that up long-term, but it’s a bit of a reset. Maybe we’ll avoid having wine during the week.
“Apart from that, it’s just about doing something small for me, really. I’ve just started doing beginners’ yoga, and I’m so bad, but it’s just 10 minutes a day while the munchkins are upstairs, and feels like I’m doing something. And we have our little discos in the kitchen – you can burn quite a lot of energy doing that.
“I love listening to podcasts, I find them very relaxing – although for a while, I didn’t realise I was listening to them on double speed. One day I was in the studio and said to a colleague, ‘The thing that bugs me about podcasts is everybody talks really quickly’. They were like, ‘You’ve got it on double speed’. I was like, ‘What?!’ I swear it was making me run faster because they talked so quickly.”
Has your approach to looking after yourself changed over the years?
“I’ve always eaten quite healthily. Growing up, if we wanted dessert, it had to be fruit, you know? I think for me, you kind of find your way, don’t you – by your late-30s, early-40s, you understand who you are and what you need.
“For me, having two young children – which is full-on but, gosh, I wouldn’t change it for the world – it’s about finding a little bit of time on my own, and having that reset. I have to get outside, because I can’t just sit still and be in the house too long – getting outside resets me. Just going for a walk; that feeling of being out in the elements really grounds me.”
Alex Jones is the face of AXA Health’s Feelgood Health campaign. For more information and to create your unique motivational playlists, visit AXA Health’s Feelgood Health Hub (axahealth.co.uk/feelgoodhealth/the-hub)