Live Your Best Life: Anita Chaudhuri
I’m so pleased to bring you another interview with an inspiring woman for my Live Your Best Life series. Living your best life isn’t about having it all figured out or having a perfect life (nobody has that). It’s about making a contribution to the world around you in a way that works for you, being true to yourself and focusing on being the best version of yourself each day, however that may be.
I’ve known Anita Chaudhuri online for a few years now and she was kind enough to interview me for the Dossier section she writes in Psychologies magazine (my favourite section of the whole mag). Her Instagram feed is a colourful joy to follow and I’m very happy that she agreed to share with me what living your best life means to her…
Hi, Anita, can you tell everyone a little about yourself, what your life is like and the path you took to get to where you are today please?
Writing for Psychologies magazine really is the best job because I get to take a deep dive into the stuff of life that really matters – personality, emotions and human behaviour. It’s illuminating to meet the rock stars of the self-development industry and find out what they’re really like too. Sitting down for tea with Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way has probably been my favourite interview to date because she has a wonderfully black sense of humour, a classic New Yorker. Louise Hay was rather like that too, not at all the fluffy bunny I’d been expecting.
I’ve always loved combining words and pictures. As a child my favourite thing was cutting things out and making collages, so although no one else in my family worked in the media, it’s probably no surprise that I went on to have a career in magazines or that I would develop a passion for photography.
While I was doing a drama degree at Glasgow University I became involved in student journalism and this propelled me to do a postgraduate journalism course at Cardiff University. From there I landed my first job as a reporter on PR Week. For a hazy couple of years I had champagne for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was made redundant after the company was sold. I know it’s a bit of a cliche but that was honestly one of the best things that ever happened to my career. Business journalism held no interest for me whatsoever so I had the chance to radically change direction. Eventually, through sheer stubborness I think, I landed my dream job, as Features Editor of Time Out magazine. I spent four of the happiest years of my working life there before I got offered a job at The Guardian. From there I moved to Sunday Times Style before deciding to go freelance. I’d always loved interviewing psychology experts for my features so when Psychologies launched and invited me to contribute, it was an incredible opportunity.
What inspirational quotes or mantras that hold particular meaning for you?
In my job I do get bombarded with these. “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver, is a favourite. There’s a sense of abundance and urgency in those words that never fails to motivate me. Also an anonymous one that I love: “Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.” Oh, and also this by Albert Camus: “In the midst of winter, I found there was within me an invincible summer.” It’s part of a much longer passage about the invincible quality within all humans, beautiful.
The Albert Camus quote is a particular favourite of mine too. So, how do you recognise when life’s getting on top of you?
By nature I have a mercurial temperament and so I have to be quite careful not to be ruled by my moods or over-react to things. This has been particularly true of the last few years which have brought some tough challenges – redundancy followed by the sudden deaths of both of my parents and a draining and long drawn-out health investigation. Usually by the end of the day I’m much more prone to a mood slump and a telltale sign is when I start to feel bored and make mischief. Colleagues who have worked in an office with me well know that 4.30pm is the witching hour!
And what do you do to get back to how you want to feel?
I guess I’m lucky to get to try lots of different techniques for research purposes. This has certainly expanded my toolkit. For example, I completed the eight-week MBSR mindfulness course as created by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I found the whole thing deeply boring and it took me the longest time to realise that that’s the point of it. It’s not right for everyone, but a 20-minute morning meditation practice has been transformative for me and my over-active imagination.
Apart from that, my quick-fix is always music. I’m a huge music fan and have dozens of Spotify playlists. I also sing in the Hearst Magazines Choir and there’s nothing more uplifting than singing in a group. It’s impossible to sing and worry at the same time. Another thing guaranteed to make me feel better is taking my camera out for a spin. I try and take at least one photo a day for my Instagram account with a focus on colour. Doing this has not only improved my technique, it has sharpened my awareness of seasons, of nature, architecture and small changes taking place in the world around me.
What are your plans, hopes and dreams for the future?
I’m a classic example of what author Barbara Sher defines as a “scanner” – someone who has multiple projects on the go at once. I want to develop my website, do a photography foundation course and complete a photo project I’m working on about the locations of London songs. I have also just written my first novel, a very offbeat romantic comedy set in the Scottish-Bengali community of my upbringing. And Brexit notwithstanding, I’d like to live part of the year in Paris which has always been like a second home.
Do let me know when your novel is published! So, finally, Anita, tell us what living your best life means to you.
City life, friends and family, a walk on Hampstead Heath with a good friend and a naughty dog, working days where you never watch the clock, a glass of red wine and someone to share it with at the end of the day, what more could you ask for? (Well, maybe some crisps…)
Anita Chaudhuri is Associate Editor at thinking woman’s monthly Psychologies. She is also a photographer who has exhibited at a group show featuring images of London and has recently established The Colour Fix, a website that celebrates the vibrant side of life in the capital. You can also connect with Anita on Instagram @anitachaudhuri.