Family & Parenting

Fearne Cotton on how kids can find happiness from head to toe

Broadcaster and author Fearne Cotton discusses her new book, explaining how every bit of a child's body can contribute to their overall happiness

A happy, healthy mind is closely connected to a body that is also happy and healthy - whether you are a child or adult.

SINCE writing her first book, Happy, in 2017, Fearne Cotton has been on a mission to spread joy far and wide.

The broadcaster, author and mum talks to celebrity guests about what happiness means to them on her podcast Happy Place (happyplaceofficial.co.uk), and has written a series of books designed to help people find calm. Now, she's extending her joyful quest to kids, with the new children's book Happy From Head To Toe.

The book is designed to teach children that a happy, healthy mind is closely connected to the body.

"I think the world our kids are navigating is incredibly complex, and that's causing more anxiety and heightened stress for everyone," says the mother of two and stepmum of two.

"The more tools we all have to find happiness in ourselves - rather than pinning it on situations, other people or outcomes - the better.

"I hope the book shows every kid they have much more control over their own happiness than we're all led to believe, and that there are simple ways we can all explore what our own individual version of happiness looks like."

The 41-year-old stresses: "A happy, healthy mind is so closely connected to a happy, healthy body. When our body is in balance, our mind functions better, and vice versa."

So does she use her own advice to help her children - Rex, aged nine, and Honey, aged seven - live their happiest lives?

"I try to use everything I've learned over the years in my parenting," she says. "That's not to say it always works. Sometimes my own fear and anxiety of a situation can cloud my judgement and I get things very wrong."

She suggests her own experiences can help, saying: "Because I've experienced anxiety, I will often soothe my kids by telling them I totally get it. If it's night-time anxiety, we may listen to an online meditation, soothing music or other tools that help me.

"I talk about the sea and nature in the book too, and that's definitely a firm favourite when it comes to helping the whole family feel better and happier."

In the book, Cotton isolates individual parts of the body and explains, with the help of medical experts, "great thinkers", and famous names (including Tom Daley, Joe Wicks and Tom Fletcher), how each part plays an important role in making us feel happy.

HEAD

Cotton says children can use their imagination to bring calmness and joy when they need it most, simply by thinking of a happy place. And if they're anxious and their heart is racing, she suggests trying to focus on positive stories and images. "You can train your imagination to change the story so it has a different ending," she say.

She says she "loved learning about visualisation" when writing the book. "I think it's a really powerful tool for children and adults in situations where we feel anxiety and nerves. We can all use our imagination to determine how a nerve-racking moment will unfold. I learned this first-hand from Tom Daley - he uses this before dives. It's so powerful, and a great tool for reducing stress and anxiety."

FACE

Your eyes can "absorb tonnes of things that bring you joy", says Cotton, and certain smells can help calm you down.

She says: "If Honey is feeling worried, I sometimes spritz lavender spray by her bed before she goes to sleep. Lavender is known to be a very calming smell. And now her nose and brain work as a team to remind her that every time she smells lavender, her body can relax."

And then there's your mouth, which is great for talking and getting worries off your chest. "I have learned that when I do talk about feelings I'm having, I feel much better afterwards. Telling someone else you are having a tough time or you feel sad about something can feel scary in the moment, but usually makes you feel calmer afterwards.

"There's a reason they say a problem shared is a problem halved."

UPPER BODY

Cotton stresses the importance of good posture, keeping your shoulders back and spine straight, suggesting that holding yourself well instead of slumping can make you feel more powerful.

She's also a big advocate for using the lungs for controlled breathing. "In those moments when you feel nervous or panicked, try working on your breathing first," she recommends. "You will hopefully notice your brain is worrying less, as you are focusing on your breath. You might also notice that by breathing slowly your heart rate has slowed down too, making you feel even calmer - and hopefully a little happier."

TUMMY

"Many people believe our tummy is like a second brain," says Cotton. "As well as being aware of what you are eating, the tummy is also aware of how you are eating."

She recommends children eat mindfully, paying attention to the food's flavours and textures. "This will encourage you to eat more slowly, enjoy your food and help to avoid indigestion," she says. "Taking your time allows you to notice how delicious the food actually is."

ARMS AND HANDS

As well as helping you communicate and sometimes expressing you're happy - by punching the air or giving a high five - Cotton says your hands can bring joy through creativity.

"Getting creative can just be the perfect way to let loose, enjoy yourself and create whatever you want."

LEGS AND FEET

Moving your body - with the help of your legs and feet - can help you feel both energised and calm, says Cotton, who stresses: "The most important thing to do is listen to your body - does it need an energy boost? Do you need to relax? Do you need to spend five minutes moving around in order to lift your mood? Take a second to listen to what your body is asking for."

::Happy From Head To Toe by Fearne Cotton is published by Puffin, priced £9.99, and will be available from Thursday.

Family & Parenting