Renée Zellweger is aware that people think she looked different at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards in Beverly Hills earlier this week.

Her response? "I'm glad."

"I'm living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows," the actress told People. "My friends say I look peaceful."

Though the actress, 45, thinks the chatter around her looks "silly," she added that for the first time in a long time, she's learned to slow down and focus on herself. In her 30s, she explained, she she "took on a schedule that is not not realistically sustainable and didn't allow for taking care of myself."

"Rather than stopping to recalibrate, I kept running until I was depleted and made bad choices about how to conceal the exhaustion," she said. "I was aware of the chaos and finally chose different things."

Now happily dating musician Doyle Bramhall and focusing on causes that matter to her, Zellweger, who recently participated in the Walk to Defeat ALS in L.A. in support of her friend, said she's in a new place in her life -- and it shows.

"I did work that allows for being still, making a home, loving someone, learning new things, growing as a creative person and finally growing into myself," she said. "People don't know me [as] healthy for a while. ... Perhaps I look different. Who doesn't as they get older?! Ha. But I am different. I'm happy."