In many ways, modern life is liberating. Yet, in an age when we’re switched on all the time, it’s easy to become obsessed with keeping up appearances. It’s confusing. Sometimes we all need a bit of help.
Step forward Davina McCall, the best friend everyone wishes they had. In her new series, The Davina Hour, she’s tackling big subjects head on – everything from parenting and social media to body image.
W Channel invited me to interview Davina ahead of her new programme. I wanted to get right to the heart of how she navigates modern life…
We started with the pursuit of happiness. The desire to be happy is nothing new. What’s changed in recent years is a perception that we ought to feel good all the time – and if we don’t, we’re doing something wrong and need to shape up.
“I’ve learnt a lot about what people want,” says Davina. “We’re living in an age where self-improvement seems to be really important to all of us. We all want to be better… but we need to manage our expectations. You can only feel true joy when you’ve known sadness. The lows make the highs even sweeter. I think that people who are really struggling have to remember that things will get better and life will feel good again.”
Next up, we turned to social media. For better or for worse, most of us are glued to our phones. Even Davina is no exception.
“I can spend up to four hours a day on my phone. I get driven to places and the minute I get in the car I crack out my phone. It’s terrible, but I love it. I’m addicted,” she admits.
“Every like I get on Instagram is a hit of dopamine. After I’ve posted something I go back and check in the first hour to see it’s going down well – or, if it isn’t.”
The dangerous thing about social media is that it can give us all unrealistic expectations of perfection. Our constant scrolling and tapping through images styled to perfection can’t be healthy, can it?
“Of course, I want to look good, but I also want to look normal,” she admits. “I’m 49 and I’ve got three kids. I want to inspire rather than make anyone feel bad about themselves.
“I used to care about perfection, but I don’t anymore. I think that’s because I’m a bit older and more relaxed about everything. I want to make people feel better, not worse. Really, at the back of everything I do, I’m always trying to help people.”
Can social media really help people though? I like to think it can – and so does Davina. In fact, she’s keen to point out that social media is a positive force for good.
“I’m not against social media in the same way that some people are,” she says. “Women are the ones who really engage in social media. I think it’s a been a great place for activism for women… a place to come together and spread ideas.”
Deep down I think we all know that moderation is the key. Putting that into practice is the hard bit, though. Once upon a time work ended when you left the office – and you could shut out nosy neighbours by drawing your curtains. How do you escape when you’re always switched on?
Davina, like the rest of us, struggles. “I’m always on call. If I get an e-mail at 10 o’clock at night I think I have to answer it.”
Recently, she’s found simple way to switch off – creating headspace by disconnecting herself. “I take the dogs out for a walk every day. One day, I decided to leave my phone at home and it stuck. It’s no exaggeration to say that having this simple time-out each day has changed my life.”
And what about our children? We’re all scared of the influence the digital world has on our children. It’s natural. But Davina tries to keep things realistic.
“When I was a teenager I was speaking to my friends on the telephone for two hours after school even though I’d just spent all day with them! For my kids to be on social media chatting to their friends for two hours after school isn’t so very different, is it?”
“But I’m very uptight about their privacy,” she continues. “I’ve lectured them about what you should post and how to be safe.”
Davina admits that the most important thing we can teach them is how to switch off. “We have a no-screen rule an hour before bedtime and I think it makes a big difference to their sleep patterns.”
Over the last year, I’ve written a lot about #OnePerfectThing – a hashtag community I curate on Instagram. It’s all about paying attention to the little things in life that make you happy, whatever life’s throwing at you.
I couldn’t meet Davina without asking her what her #OnePerfectThing is right now. She totally got it: “for me, it’s a dry pillow.” She went on to explain that, “when I was using drugs I got terrible night sweats. So, every morning that I open my eyes and I feel my head on a nice crisp pillow case I think thank you.”
And, thank you, Davina! Meeting her was like getting the best pep talk, ever.
The Davina Hour starts on W Channel on Monday 4th September at 9pm. You can find out more here.