When columnist, bestselling author and podcaster Dolly Alderton entered her 30s she thought life was going to be different.
Writing about her love and life experiences in her 20s in her hit memoir Everything I Know About Love sent her writing career into the stratosphere, followed recently by her debut novel Ghosts.
Today, she’s trying to veer away from writing about herself, but pens an agony aunt column for the Sunday Times and co-hosts the hit podcast The High Low with her friend Pandora Sykes.
At 32, Alderton has been single for much of her adult life and lives alone in north London. Here we ask her all about her wellbeing.
How do your 20s compare with your 30s?
“The most dramatic stuff that happened in my 20s were emotional issues, like arguments with people, or break-ups or fall-outs. The practical stuff was that we were skint.
“Now, I’ll often be in a situation when I think, ‘Where is the adult that’s going to come and sort this out?’ ‘How do I counsel my friend or soothe myself over something?’ I can’t believe that the buck stops with me.”
Are you happier now?
“Yes, I’m happier, and am much better at putting things in perspective. Even on bad days, I can think of what other people are going through or what the great fortunes and privileges and luck and joys of my life are in the grand scheme of the world.
“I’m able to feel incredibly grateful every morning. When I open my eyes and look in my bedroom, no matter what is worrying me that day I am able to reach for gratitude very easily.
“When you are in your 20s you are so solipsistic and distracted by your own inner emotional turmoil that you don’t let yourself enjoy or be appreciative of life. I’m much more grateful for my life now.”
How do you relax?
“Probably drinking too much, cooking, yoga, walking, travel, dancing, playing guitar – I have a lot of fun in my spare time. I probably work too much but I have a great sense of self preservation.”
Do you meditate?
“No, I can’t meditate, which I think must be something to do with my psyche. First I tried to do the Headspace app and I think it was half a second before my brain was wandering off. Also, when I meditate, it makes me anxious and fidgety.”
How do you sleep?
“Dependent on where I am in terms of life anxieties. I used to be totally fine and then I published a book – Everything I Know About Love – and I don’t think I’ve had a proper night’s sleep ever since.
“I just can’t seem to quieten my mind at night. I’ve tried a lot of different things. Most of my friends feel like when we were in our 20s we were these giant toddlers, passing out at any opportunity, sleeping for hours at a time.
“If I was particularly hungover at work, I’d go into the loo on my lunchbreak and have 10 minutes’ kip there. For some reason, that’s a luxury that’s gone. Everyone I know in their 30s thinks that this acquisition of sleep has become a valuable commodity.”
Do you drink as much as you used to?
“No. Hangovers get worse when you get to 30. I’ve got so much to do when I wake up in the morning, I just like to have a clear head to do it. Nora Ephron once said, ‘If you’re waking up in the night, it’s because you had one glass of wine too many.’
“When I was younger, the pursuit of a good time and the pursuit of relaxation and physical, sensory experience was more important than anything else. What you can’t anticipate is feeling energised and functioning and clear-headed, which becomes more important as you get older.
“I still have a lot of fun at the weekend, but all of the cliches about getting older are true.”
Are you careful about what you eat?
“Since my late 20s I’ve been pretty nutrition-conscious, I’m a pescatarian. But indulgence will always be an important part of my life, it’s just factoring that in in a way that’s enjoyable.”
How do you cope with stress?
“I go to the pub with a mate. For years, I hated feeling any vulnerability with someone and I just wanted to work through things on my own and be my own therapist.
“As I’ve got older, I’ve realised that the minute I’m feeling destabilised, anxious and stressed out, all I need to do is go round to my friend’s house for a cup of tea and talk it through.”
Do you take regular exercise?
“I walk for miles every day and do hot yoga a few times a week. It’s quite mad when you first do it but then it gets quite addictive.”
Any guilty pleasures?
“I don’t really attach any guilt to pleasure. Pleasure is such a big part of my life.”
At the end of your 20s, you went into therapy, returning to it after your first book came out. Will you go back to it?
“I think it’s something I’ll be in and out of for quite a long time, which I’m very comfortable with. I think lots of people could do with joining the dots together of their past and how it manifests in their present.”
Ghosts by Dolly Alderton is published by Fig Tree, priced £14.99. Available now