According to studies by The Children’s Society and Pisa, young people in England are among the unhappiest in the world. With internet bullying, endless school tests and cuts to services, it can be bleddy hard being a kid. However, help is at hand. Together with Penny Alexander, West Bridgford’s Becky Goddard-Hill has devised Create Your Own Happy, a workbook that aims to empower children.
School days are supposed to be the best of your life, but the youth of today have a lot going on. Becky Goddard-Hill’s new book Create Your Own Happy addresses subjects like internet safety and bullying. “It doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff,” she says. “These are big, important issues that are often tricky for kids to control.”
Becky used to work as a social worker and children's bereavement therapist for Nottingham City Council, and has built on her knowledge by studying the workings of happiness. Create Your Own Happy is the result. It’s an activity book for kids aged seven to twelve, packed with interactive fun designed to increase happiness. Becky explains: “From feeding the birds to creating a laughter kit and giving out compliments, the book is all about teaching kids how to be happy in simple ways and how to spread happiness around.”
Becky uses scientific theory to underpin all of the book’s activities, and explains it clearly to readers. “The science of happiness is absolutely fascinating,” she says. No stranger to offering advice, Becky is a full-time life coach and blogger. In 2016, she won a MAD Blog Award for her outstanding contribution to the blogging community by running five popular blogs that look at enjoying a creative family life on a budget, parenting, interiors and, of course, happiness.
Vlogging has a big role to play, too. “I adore vlogging and have been doing it for a good few years,” says Becky. “You don’t have to worry about typos. It’s simply a matter of pointing your phone at yourself, pressing record, and uploading it to YouTube; you don’t need to be particularly tech savvy.”
Back in 2007, Becky wrote a guide to baby budgeting called How to Afford Time Off with your Baby: 101 Ways to Ease the Financial Strain. The book was pitched to forty agents before one spotted its potential, leading to its publication by Random House. For Create Your Own Happy, it was Harper Collins that secured the publication. “Harper Collins are contemporary publishers and totally saw the need for a book supporting children’s emotional health and wellbeing,” says Becky. “I’d previously freelanced for them, writing advice for parents on their education guides website, so I sent them the pitch for the book and they just loved it. If you believe in your idea, keep on pitching.”
The book was collaboratively written with long-time friend and blogging buddy, Penny Alexander. The authors have created a podcast together, putting Create Your Own Happy on iTunes. “Penny totally knows how to create her own happy,” says Becky. “As a former teacher and huge lover of nature, she brought so much to this book with her understanding of children and how the environment can impact on us in positive ways.
“We collaborated with our illustrator through copious notes and a combination of her vision and ours,” she continues. “It turned out absolutely beautifully and we could not have been more delighted. We’ve had compliment after compliment for the illustrations.”
The result of it all is a fun take on a serious issue, giving children a chance to shape their own lives and the lives of others around them. Organised into three parts, the book works through a series of practical steps and ideas. “One of the activities involves creating a happy jar by filling a jar with slips of paper and recording happy memories. What a lovely, positive thing to do as a family,” says Becky. Following each activity is a “how did it go?” section, so each child can discover what works for them.
From feeding the birds to creating a laughter kit and giving out compliments, the book is all about teaching kids how to be happy in simple ways and how to spread happiness around
The idea that we have some ability to control our happiness is something that inspires the activities. Becky wants to promote the notion of creating time dedicated to self-care, even on the darkest of days. “I would show people how to plan activities that they know will lift their mood,” says Becky. “A long bath, listening to happy music, or chatting to a good friend.”
A mother of two, and a former child development trainer, Becky is aware of the stress that’s put on the young. “The pressures from social media and celebrity culture to look and behave a certain way can be huge,” she says. “Constant digital connectivity means kids have little chance to relax and switch off. The pressures from school can be intense, even in the primary years, and nuclear family set-ups and long working hours mean there can be a lack of family and community connections that are so important to a child’s wellbeing.”
The author believes in paying kindness forward to create a happier world. “Just as a smile and a yawn are contagious, so are levels of happiness,” says Becky. “We cannot help but pass it on, so by making yourself happier, you do in fact make the whole world happier. Focusing on your own happy isn’t selfish at all.”
Becky believes Nottinghamians are on the right track, happiness-wise; like Ken Dodd, we’re blessed with more than our fair share. “I have always found a huge warmth and resilience in Nottingham people. I think this is down to community being strong here, and having a connection with others is one of the keys to happiness.” Developing a supportive community is a passion of Becky’s and has been the focus of much of her writing.
There are inspirational quotes abound in Create Your Own Happy. One that sums the book up is “Our ability to be happy is our superpower. We can call it into action whenever we choose.” As for Becky’s favourite quote from the book, she opts for Maya Angelou’s “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”
And what makes Becky happy? “It doesn’t take much,” she says. “I’ve always enjoyed really simple things like great coffee, a good book, a walk in the countryside, watching a movie and having a cuddle with my kids.”
Create Your Own Happy is published by Harper Collins and retails at £9.99