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Ever find yourself scrolling social media and feeling a bit rubbish? Perhaps take a leaf out of Angellica Bell’s book.
For Bell, cutting back on screen time is self-care. “Sometimes it’s things like not having the phone around, and not always looking online,” she adds, as we chat about her approach to looking after herself.
As a result, she says quite relaxed. “And it means I can form my own opinions and get my information from reliable sources – and then also not necessarily share it with everyone. Not everyone needs to know your opinion, you know?”
Putting these boundaries in place has been a conscious choice, largely because she didn’t want to be “wasting time”, explains Bell, who is as lively and lovely on the phone as she is on TV. She has other things to be doing. “I want to start crocheting; my gran taught me to crochet when I was little, so I bought a crochet stick and I want to do that. Also books – I’ve got books by my bed that I want to read, and I want to learn how to roller-skate.
“If you lose yourself on Twitter, the next thing an hour’s gone. And I don’t want to be one of those people – I’ve had friends pass away young – I don’t want to get to a point at the end of my life where I think, ‘Oh I wish I’d done that; I wish I’d spent less time scrolling on Twitter’.
“I think the moment counts so much,” she adds. “And you can’t get that time back.”
Born and raised in West London, Bell studied politics before making her way into TV, becoming a household name in the early-Noughties on CBBC More recently, she’s been co-hosting The Martin Lewis Money Show and The One Show, and won Celebrity MasterChef in 2017. Bell, who is married to fellow former CBBC presenter Michael Underwood (now a school teacher) with whom she has two kids, has also ventured into podcasts and recently recorded a new series of Rewirement.
As the name suggests, it’s all about reframing retirement and sees Bell chat with a range of guests, including experts on topics like financial planning and health, as well as people who’ve embraced opportunities to retrain, relocate or restart later in life.
“It’s challenging stereotypes about retirement and encouraging people to think, actually, I can still be healthy, happy, financially comfortable,” says Bell. “Loads of older people now are living really fulfilled lives, it’s not just about having a cup of tea and doing word puzzles. It’s travelling, exploring the world, fulfilling dreams they always had…”
One of her favourite interviews was with a man who, after losing his job in the mines, decided to do something totally different and trained as a ski instructor. She also talked to a woman who did a master’s degree in her 50s, someone who finally got their dream home after retiring, and people who found love further down the line.
“It was so lovely to talk to those people, and they opened up about personal things, stuff that’s happened to them and how they navigated their way through it. It’s been really eye-opening for me as well. There’s so much wisdom amongst the older generation, people who have lived their lives… I spoke to an amazing person, Patrick who came out [as LGBTQ+] later in life and had to adjust his life, and you do think, ‘This is an inspiring story, gosh’.
“You know, sometimes, you’re in your own world – your own bubble – but there are people everywhere who’ve got these stories, these adjustments,” Bell reflects. “Everyone has their crosses to carry, and their lives, but it’s amazing when you hear it.”
The podcast aims to provide advice too – but Bell is keen to emphasise it’s not about “telling people what to do”, rather “empowering people to make informed choices”.
Whatever stage you’re at: “You’ve got to do what’s right for you. Sometimes, when you’ve got all these other people saying this is what you should be doing, it can be quite confusing. You have to live with yourself, you know how you feel about things, you have to really be in tune and tap into those feelings to get the best out of you. And that’s all that matters, isn’t it? How you feel and what makes you happy.”
She was having this conversation recently, she recalls, about how easy it is to compare ourselves – which Bell says “is almost like being your own personal destructive weapon. There’ll always be someone doing something different, or doing something you might perceive to be better, but you never know exactly what’s going on”, she adds.
Has Bell always had this sense of perspective? “I think all life experiences will hone the essence of your being, really. Wisdom with experience has helped me to reconcile little things I wasn’t really sure about, but I think I’ve always been like that,” Bell ponders. “I think one of the reasons is when I was growing up, I didn’t have much, so I always think everything I have is a bonus. If I’m looking at it like that, for me, it puts things into perspective.”
And while Rewirement has a focus on embracing opportunity and taking hold of the reins, Bell acknowledges we can’t always plan for everything – illness, bereavement, job loss – they can all strike without warning. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen, and that’s a little bit scary, but that’s life, isn’t it? You’ve got to roll with it, jump over the hurdles as they come.”
Something the pandemic has perhaps prompted us all to think about? “Exactly,” says Bell. “[It’s about] adapting and making things work best for you. And thinking about your mental health and how to function, and how to get the most out of life when there’s a situation you can’t control.”
Listen to Rewirement with Angellica Bell and Legal & General on Apple, Spotify and all podcast providers.