Author, TV and radio presenter Fearne Cotton’s new book HAPPY draws on her own experiences to provide practical tips on finding joy in the every day. Fearne has recently become a Mind ambassador and has shared an exclusive extract with Mind below
I, like many people out there, assumed that once I had achieved certain accolades, climbed up the career ladder and felt love from those around me, I would feel ‘happy’. Yes, there was happiness along the way, but my fast-paced, incautious way of living also led me to get hurt, feel empty at times and to live from my head rather than my heart.
Depression. Many of you will have experienced it or know someone who has. Maybe some of you have an inkling that you have dipped a toe into its murky waters, but have never really talked about it.
It’s an incredibly private experience but one that's always better to share.
I’ve never talked publicly about my own brush with depression before, as I feared it would make it bigger than it was, or that others would think I was being over-dramatic or attention-seeking. But now I think it’s time for me to share my experiences, as being honest with myself, and others, can only be a good thing and in turn might help others, too.
Within these pages you’ll hear me talk about what depression feels like for me, but you’ll also find lots of happiness. Each of us has our own perspective on what it represents and how it feels. Wherever you currently are on the happiness spectrum – whether you’re feeling down, okay or wonderful – I hope you can use this book to slow down, reflect and really engage with what those feelings are. For me, happiness and balance are about an open mind, an open heart and discipline. Nowadays, I like the simple things. Just give me fresh air, my kids’ laughter, a paintbrush, people to cook for, a clear sky and plenty of sleep: these are my new cravings. I still get to feel excited and rocket-man high about things, but I know what will really deliver that balance and bliss that I have always craved. It’s inevitable that we will all trudge through tough times, have to say goodbye to loved ones, beat ourselves up about things and make mistakes. Acceptance of this is key, as is the knowledge that ‘happiness’ is not a far-off destination that lives somewhere outside of YOU.
I’ve learned to get to grips with this, having spent so many years running far away from myself in search of it. I watched the sunset in many countries, climbed mountains, partied until the birds sang and did jobs that seemed so much bigger than me. I feel so lucky to have experienced these moments in my life, and fun and joy were definitely woven throughout them, but they weren’t teleporting me to the island of happiness like I had hoped. Depression made me step back, slow down and realise this in a rather harsh and devastating way.
Although painful to recall and write about now, I’m glad. I’m sort of grateful that I had this turning point.
These days, I’m still prone to this darkness, so I have to be mindful about how I deal with everything around me.
Over time, I’ve learned a few simple things to help keep me in my version of ‘happy’. These will be different for each of us, but I feel grateful for my own little list as it allows me to navigate back onto a smoother path when I find myself shunted off it. For example, painting ignites my inner dreamer as I put what’s in my head onto a canvas; cooking gives me a creative outlet that acts like meditation.
These are some of the tools that together make a huge difference to my life and outlook. This book will combine these elements and more to help quieten your mind – through little exercises and visualisations – and hopefully drench you in relaxation and calm. I believe writing things down can be a very powerful tool to grab hold of; one that has helped me over the years and continues to help me make sense of the chaos in my head and digest thoughts, fears and dreams. Many of the exercises in the book involve just that, and I really hope this tool can be helpful to you, too.
This book will share ways to release what’s going on inside your head and keep you trekking towards the good stuff. The simple stuff. The stuff that’s going to really hit up that happiness on a deep and nourishing level. Whether you dip into these pages every now and then when you feel the need, or use the book’s exercises for some daily positivity, I hope it brings you much relief, joy and calm.
Amen to the pen.