Mental health activist Poppy Jamie on what it means to be 'Happy Not Perfect'

·9-min read
Poppy Jamie shares the connection between skincare and mental well-being. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Poppy Jamie shares the connection between skincare and mental well-being. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

Poppy Jamie got her start as a TV presenter in her native England, before going on to launch the Pop & Suki accessories and jewelry line with model pal Suki Waterhouse. But underneath the glamorous façade, the British "it" girl was struggling with her mental health, an experience that ultimately prompted her to pivot to becoming a mental health activist.

With her Happy Not Perfect app, Jamie draws on neuroscience to create engaging, user-friendly tools to "help calm us down and help us find clarity in our own wisdom," she tells Yahoo Life. She's also launched a podcast of the same name, and this June will release her book, Happy Not Perfect: Upgrade Your Mind, Challenge Your Thoughts and Free Yourself from Anxiety.

She's also just been named global wellness adviser for the Erno Laszlo skincare brand, for whom she'll be incorporating meditation and other mindful moments into everyday grooming routines. 

What does being a global wellness adviser for Erno Laszlo entail?

The one thing that I couldn't understand how to crack was, how do we encourage people to make mental health habitual, make it an everyday thing? Through all the interviews and research that I've carried out over the last five years, I've found roughly less than 20 percent of people can meditate. And if you're looking at habit change and habit behavior, they always say, if you want to try and do something, pair it with an activity you're already doing. You're not then adding something to your day; you're just kind of making one thing do two things. So for a long time I've been looking at, what things do we all do without even thinking? To be honest, our skincare routine is something that we all do, men and women. Even from a really young age, we're conditioned to look after our face. Brush your teeth, wash your face. And I always love this idea of "meditation should be the toothbrush for our mind" — "the toothbrush for our soul" — but I actually prefer "skincare is the ritual for our soul." 

I got really fascinated about this idea and bizarrely, at the same time, I was connected to Charles Denton, who is the CEO of Erno Laszlo. I was telling him about this, and he said, "That's so odd because Erno Laszlo 90 years ago actually wrote this in his documents." 

[Laszlo] was one of the first leading pioneers in having a 360-degree approach to your skincare, and so many of these industries have been separated. We have a meditation app for mental health. We've got a skincare brand for our skin health, we have this for our physical health. And actually I think having a 360 approach to everything is going to benefit all of us. Let's say you're having trouble having challenges with your skin. Erno Laslo, 90 years ago, said you're not only going to cure it through skincare. You have to look at your lifestyle. How stressed are you? Are you drinking enough water? I think it's amazing how it has taken us nearly a hundred years to suddenly bring this conversation back, and I think it's really pioneering of a brand to say, we want to ensure that people don't just look at skincare products to be the only solution. This is actually why we've teamed up, because I'm going to be creating meditations specifically orientated around your skincare rituals. They'll be really, really short, but it will just help you to get mindful doing an activity you usually do.

Jamie is the new global wellness adviser for Erno Laszlo. (Photo: Erno Laszlo)
Jamie is the new global wellness adviser for Erno Laszlo. (Photo: Erno Laszlo)

A lot of people cite their skincare routine as a grounding self-care ritual. Do you find that to be true for yourself?

Yeah, it's kind of my favorite time of the day because it's become that signal to my mind that OK, we can wind down now... I really make sure that I put on some nice music so I can actually slow down my skincare [routine]; on the days where I'm trying to rush is usually when I start making tons of mistakes, when I'm going too quickly in the morning or don't get to sleep for ages because I've rushed that kind of getting-to-sleep time. In the night I'm absolutely obsessed with the Erno Laszlo Hydro-Therapy Memory Sleep Mask. It has this technology where basically it locks in moisture at night and it's pink. I really look for the color in skincare [laughs] because it really adds to my enjoyment of it. 

So my skincare is double cleansing to take off the rest of the impurities. I also always have a hot bath or a hot shower and I really try and make it as hot as I possibly can manage, because Erno Laszlo right back in 1929 said that we should all be splashing our face with as hot water as we can manage to bring up blood circulation. In terms of the wellness benefit of that, when we allow ourselves to have a temperature change, we actually signal to our brain and our hormones to help us get to sleep quicker and longer. It makes us quite drowsy when we are able to have that temperature change. 

So I never go to sleep, to be honest, without a hot bath or a hot shower. I double cleanse, then I tone with the Erno Laszlo Hydraphel Toner and then I use this [Hydro-Therapy Memory] mask that honestly, it's the one thing that I encourage anyone to get. It has fully changed my skin and how I wake up in the morning and what it looks like. Then I do the Sleep Wind Down, which is this little sleep ritual that I created for the Happy Not Perfect app. It's your "grateful diary": You journal away any worries that happened to you that day, and you set an intention for the morning. I always think setting your intention the night before has the most miraculous, magical way of centering you and centering your mindset in the morning. 

You've launched a fashion line and have a background in hosting entertainment shows. What made you decide to focus your platform on mental health?

To be honest, probably my own mental health and the struggles I had with that... And then also, my mother's a psychotherapist, which kind of seems odd that I'd be struggling so much at the time with my mental health, but it showed me that for us to really change our mental health, the desire has to come from within. I didn't really match what she tried to tell me over the years. It was really when I started going, OK, I need to change some things. And the best way to change it is to learn about it. 

About five years ago I had to make a choice. I was given this huge show to host and I actually said, "No, I have to go and create some tools for mental health." The world has changed a lot, but at the time there was nothing. And I remember thinking to myself, I'm lucky, I'm so privileged. I have a resource like a mother who understands about mental health. So when I was really struggling, at least I would have a resource where I could talk things through. So that was really my whole mission: How on earth do I put my mum in an app so everybody could have access to a psychotherapist, or have these therapeutic tools so we can help ourselves? 

Your app is called Happy Not Perfect. What does that mean to you?

So even the words "happy not perfect" take on more significance to me every year, because I think the core of my mental health stuff is that perfectionism is something that has just kind of gripped me. I think everyone can identify with perfectionism because we're so conditioned to it. We want to make sure that everything is perfect to ensure that we're safe, in a way — we're not going to be criticized. I think women struggle with this more than men, because I think we've had even greater conditioning around being perfect. And so this idea of OK, what does life look like when we don't fear not being perfect and we allow ourselves to make mistakes and we actually don't even place the perfectionism expectations on others either? We allow other people to make mistakes. Suddenly we would live in a very different world — maybe a more creative world where we could be so much more fully expressed as ourselves. 

So Happy Not Perfect really stemmed from the antidote to what I was suffering at such a core level, of [feeling] not good enough, having to be perfect to be enough. I think happiness starts when we're able to let go of trying to be something that we're not. 

Besides your skincare ritual, what techniques do you have to get through a bad day?

I truly believe you can't think your way out of a problem; you've got to move your way out of a problem. And so when we're in a bad mood, we're feeling that constricted energy. When you stay in the same position, it's really hard to think new thoughts. So my go-to [tip] is, put on your favorite tune and dance for three minutes, five minutes. If you can, get to a dance class... You can't not feel good after that... [It's like you've] shaken off the day. 

Do you have a top takeaway for anyone having a hard time?

I would say, always remember, this too shall pass. Nothing lasts forever, no bad day lasts forever — not even pandemics. And I think sometimes we get terrified that emotions are going to stay with us. Like heartbreak and those moments when you're just like, am I ever going to be un-heartbroken? Or when we're feeling peak anxiety, it's like, does it ever go away? And it always, always does. So I think that focusing on that, reconnecting to yourself and upgrading your energy through any sort of movement. Even if you don't have the capacity to move, for whatever reason, even just shaking your hands furiously or flipping off the energy and stuff like that is really helpful.

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