Irish-born broadcaster Angela Scanlon, best known for her TV and radio shows, credits holistic living for grounding her. We chat to the star about meditation, swimming and what she’s been grateful for in 2020
I think with lockdown, gratitude as a subject went from being something that was a bit spiritual to something tangible. This year, there’s been a real shift in the way we think about it. I know so many people who think of themselves as someone who wouldn’t be into meditation or mindfulness, who now do gratitude journaling on a daily basis. Gratitude has completely changed my life. It’s interesting because, while I follow the latest fads and I’m always reading the latest self-help book, it is the only thing that seems to get me out of a mental block or funk.
I think social media has made it impossible to avoid comparison. It’s so easy to do as well. You just roll over in the morning, grab your phone and you can compare yourself to Taylor Swift or Oprah Winfrey! It’s highly demotivating. For me, it’s not about focusing on external things – gratitude has taught me that I can change my life for the better, rather than looking in the wrong direction.
I’ve had a meditation practice for a few years – I use Headspace, the meditation app, a lot – but it was never something I used consistently…until the government’s imposed lockdown forced me to have more of a routine! I didn’t have to get up and travel anywhere or be on set first thing in the morning, so my days were suddenly predictable. It meant that every day I could get into a routine. Even though the world was chaotic and scary, meditation became a safe place for me during that time.
During lockdown I did a cacao course with a practitioner in Guatemala and met the most amazing bunch of women through it. I enjoyed it so much. I think, if you’re used to controlling things all the time, then it can be difficult to let go and settle into stuff like that.
The first time I did a gong bath, I was like ‘oh my god, what is happening!’. But I think if you can release that, then you see the benefits. Now I do it five times a week and I have cacao ceremonies alone and with others online. Friends come over and sometimes we’ll have a glass of whisky; other times we’ll have a mug of cacao! I’ve experienced different versions of it too – sometimes I’ve wept like a baby and at other times I’ve laughed. It’s just magical.
I got into swimming outdoors last year and then lockdown obviously took away the ability to go to the seaside or lido, but I’m so intrigued by the idea of cold exposure. On a spiritual level, it’s about facing the first battle of the day, which I really like the idea of. I think it builds your resilience to stress and I’ve found that my body feels different because of it. Even though I haven’t been doing a massive amount of exercise, I just feel very strong and haven’t had a cold this year at all! It’s been amazing, and similar to cacao ceremonies, there is this big community of people involved with it.
In 2020, I’ve been so grateful for my house and my tiny little garden, which was a bit underused before lockdown and now it’s a place where we love to be. In the summer we [Angela, her husband and daughter] took our kitchen table out from the house and ate dinner al fresco. It was so lovely to feel connected to the outdoors. I’m also really grateful for the distraction that my daughter has provided me over the last months. She’s two and a half, and she doesn’t really know what’s going – that allows us an escape from it all as well, which is nice. Books have been an important thing for me this year, too. Once again, for me, it’s all about connection and connecting with people’s experiences and realising that we are, literally, all the same.
You can listen to Angela’s podcast Thanks A Million on Apple, Spotify and all podcast providers; with the biggest names in TV, film, wellbeing, books, comedy and more, sharing their gratitude lists to find out what has shaped their lives.