Joe Sugg experienced a decade of extraordinary achievements, amassing millions of followers and incredible career breakthroughs, but at the same time he encountered phone addiction, anxiety and overwhelm. Now, he’s beginning a new chapter, sharing his love of the outdoors, a slower pace of life, and the vital role therapy plays in it.
Joe Sugg may have risen to fame as a YouTube creator, but today it’s the feel of his fingers in the dirt instead of a keyboard, and garden planning instead of filming content, that occupies his mind, and he looks incredibly happy about it.
Speaking from his home on a decidedly autumnal morning, Joe proudly shares that he has entered a new stage in his life. He has turned 30, he moved to the country with his partner Dianne Buswell (whom he met in Strictly come dance in 2018), and is now actively immersing himself in the wonders of the natural world and all the mood-enhancing goodness it has to offer.
“The move has certainly slowed my mind, and getting out of the hustle and bustle of London helped me find a little more clarity about what I wanted to do in the future,” Joe explains. “I’ve had an amazing 10 years on social media and YouTube, and I’m not leaving anytime soon, but I’m starting a new chapter of my life.”
The couple’s big move was fueled by Joe’s newfound love of the plantation, which developed during the pandemic, and led him to consider the role the outdoors has played in his life. Growing up in rural Wiltshire, he knew that happiness could be found in the ability to reconnect with nature on a daily basis. “It’s so much better for me,” reflects Joe. “I’m more relaxed here on the pitch.”
Joe documented the positive impact country life and time spent outdoors have on his mental health in his new book, Growing up. He also shares his experiences with anxiety, burnout, and burnout, and reveals that he battled phone addiction for some time.
“There was a period in my life where I spent too much time scrolling through what everyone else was doing, just constantly absorbing information,” he says. “At the end of the day, I’d go to bed and think, ‘What did I do today that was really productive or useful?’ I felt like I had wasted an entire day.”
Seeing people constantly using their phones around him might have given Joe a reason to ignore these concerns, but his gut told him this behavior needed to be addressed.
“It was very difficult for me to admit that I thought I was addicted to my phone,” he explains. “I’m not really addicted to anything else, so the amazing thing is how it slipped under the radar. I thought, ‘Wait a minute, if I showed someone my phone habits and how much time I spend scrolling, they’d probably say it’s an addiction.
Joe began to make changes by imposing limits around the use of his phone, with varying degrees of success. Turning on app limiters, turning off notifications, and taking his phone out of the room helped improve his sleep and attention span.
Sharing experiences like these is important to Joe, and he’s comfortable talking about seeking professional help when, and even before, it’s also needed.
“The subject of mental health is being talked about a lot more and that is being accepted more,” he says. “I have therapy to this day. I never felt a stigma attached to it, I’ve been very open about it with my friends and it’s never been met with any negativity.”
For Joe, therapy is just one way he stays well, but he emphasizes its importance.
“The mind is the most powerful muscle in the body, so it makes sense to get therapy. Therapy is like going to the gym for your mind,” Joe says. “I must emphasize that it is not a quick fix process; you have to work at it, and make it part of your routine. You have to put in the time and effort over a long period of time to see results, but you will look back and see that it is those small incremental changes that will really help you in the long run.”
Joe looks for an analogy. “I kind of tie it back to when he was a thatch roofer. It would take at least six weeks to make a roof. Six weeks working on the same roof, all that time! But then when you finally step back and look at what you’ve done, for someone else too, it’s such a special feeling,” he says, beaming. “I always say that I would love to be able to bottle it and give it to people. I think we need to bring an element of that back into our lives, or at least just recognize that those actions have a lot of value to us as humans.”
It seems that after a stratospheric career path in his 20s, Joe is now more focused on the benefits to be gained from slow, steady, creative pursuits, engaging in what he needs, loves and lights him up.
“I think that not seeing the results of what we do right away is very good for us,” he says. “Gardening has definitely become one of those things for me. It’s a lot of trial and error, and a lot of the things I planted this year, I’ll probably never see, or they won’t last as long as I want them to. These are things we’re learning right now, and I always have a sense of satisfaction afterwards.”
Joe’s love of the outdoors is shared by Dianne, who grew up in a rural setting on the outskirts of a small town in Australia. “She loves where we are,” she says. “She’s much more interested in the garden now that she has her own piece of land where she grows lettuce, arugula and spinach, because she’s really into health and exercise,” she explains. “She also likes to see what I’ve done, but with her dance schedule she doesn’t have time to get her hands on the ground regularly.
“Sometimes though, Dianne rearranges the plants in the house so the rooms look different, and I go back inside and I’m like, ‘Yeah, the thing is, it looks nice, but it’s not going to get any sunlight in there! !’ And we have those little back and forth moments, which is fun,” Joe laughs.
Just like those houseplants, finding our own place, with a combination of the right elements to help us grow and thrive, is what we all need. And it seems that with his change of pace and starting this new chapter, Joe has really found his own.
I would say my grandfather. My book is dedicated to him and my grandmother; both passed away in recent years. I think my creativity, and the person I am today, comes from my grandfather.
Three words Dianne would use to describe you?
The three words thing is difficult. I hope she says handsome like one of them! I think she would say thoughtful and silly too. I’ll have to ask her.
Favorite song to lift your spirits?
There are so many but I will say the hobbit song from The Lord of the Rings. It always takes me wandering through the woods, being a kid and just getting lost. I’m saying this song now, but I guarantee I’ll think of another one later!
Kindest thing someone has ever done for you?
People who give me their precious time to help me when I have needed it. I think it’s the kindest thing anyone can do for another person.
What is your favorite thing to do on a day off?
I love painting, drawing, and gardening, obviously! The main thing is to go for a walk. I start or end the day with a walk, and it can be a route that I have done many times or a completely new one. Finding a trail you haven’t ridden before is exciting. I love walking with Dianne, friends and family, and not knowing where we are. Using my dubious orientation skills to get back home is always fun!
‘Growing up: how nature can restore balance in a busy world‘ by Joe Sugg (Penguin Michael Joseph, £20), is out now.
Photography | dan kennedy