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Kerre Woodham’s secret to happiness

Our bubbly columnist reveals how a fall changed her life – and it’s all good!
Photos: Babiche Martens

When the Weekly catches up with broadcaster Kerre Woodham, her blue eyes are sparkling and she is radiating joy.

“Accidents happen,” she declares, “but that doesn’t mean we can’t mitigate against them.”

Sitting down for lunch, the 59-year-old is reflecting on a dangerous and painful fall she had four months ago that has ultimately changed her life – for the better.

“It’s amazing that what I thought was the worst thing, a really bad thing that had happened, has actually turned out to be a really good thing,” she says.

What happened was a fall at a wedding on December 3 last year. Her body weight landed on her elbow, smashing it so badly, she required an operation to repair it. And while she only had one week off work – a friend put her up in a nearby apartment so she could walk because she couldn’t drive – the experience profoundly affected her.

Kerre’s smashed elbow required surgery.

“There’s plenty of time for soul-searching when you’re left with nothing to do,” says Kerre, who also feels terrible about letting people down.

“All my Christmas plans went awry and you just have a long hard think, and take life much more slowly. And that’s what I needed to do – just slow down.”

Her December accident had come after a fall down the stairs in April. There were three things they each had in common: long, flowing skirts, extremely high heels and alcohol. Things had to change.

“Enough!” she laughs. “You’d think the first one would have been a lesson, but I’m a slow learner. So I just thought, ‘No.’ I mean, what am I doing wearing ridiculously high heels?”

So Kerre swapped those high heels for kitten heels. And the long, flowing dresses that were “trailing along the ground, which is all very fabulous and Bohemian but a disaster waiting to happen”, have been hemmed up. But the biggest change was saying farewell to the booze.

“I loved alcohol, but it was no longer serving me well,” explains Kerre, who recently celebrated 100 days without drinking. “It’s like a bad relationship. Once things don’t serve you, you have to remember the good times and let it go.

“I just think, ‘I’m not going to die wondering.’ I know what it is to drink glorious Champagne with friends and laugh until the bubbles come out your nose, and I know what it is to have a crisp cold beer after a swim and on a hot summer’s day. That’s all great. It was fun and thanks for the great memories. Like any relationship with anything unhealthy – eating or men and women, or even the relationship with yourself that’s unhealthy – you need to stop it and reframe it.”

While this is not Kerre’s first time at giving up alcohol, it has certainly been life-changing.

“I just feel so great… so Zen, so peaceful,” she reflects. “That fall down the stairs or any fall can be utterly life-changing for the worse. So I think I’ve realised I have to make the most of every high tide and every golden day because I feel lucky to be here to enjoy it.”

It’s a monumental and fundamental shift in perspective for Kerre, who admits that like many New Zealanders, she has found the past few years gruelling and was hopeful that 2023 was going to be a vast improvement.

When the global pandemic hit in 2020, she was worried she may never see her family again. Mum Colleen was living in Hamilton, and her daughter Kate, son-in-law Ranko, and their two children Bart and Dora were in England trying to move back home. She had also split from her husband Tom and sold her house three days before the March lockdown.

Kerre and her mum, Colleen.
With her beloved mum Colleen.

“So a marriage break-up, selling a house and a global pandemic,” she muses. “Everything I thought was, wasn’t. Everything that I was valued for was discounted – like being gregarious, loving people, entertaining… All of that was shut down. I just felt valueless, like this new world didn’t need or want me.”

Kerre is a Weekly columnist and her readers have followed her ups and downs, including the joy of Colleen moving to a retirement home in Auckland, meaning they now live in the same city for the first time in 41 years. And after a long time house-hunting, Kerre was over the moon when she found a home with Kate’s family. They live upstairs, while she lives downstairs.

Throughout it all, Kerre admits that although she didn’t experience depression, she sensed a remarkable flatness—a significant shift for someone inherently optimistic. And so, she had pinned her hopes on 2023.

“Every year you keep thinking, ‘This is the year’, you know after the Covid years, and I had hoped it would be okay.”

But it was not to be. In January, there were the Auckland floods, followed in February by Cyclone Gabrielle that claimed the lives of 11 New Zealanders. Working in talkback radio, she also found the election difficult because “people were so polarised”.

Kerre Woodham shares her newfound happiness
A dip in the ocean can always make Kerre smile. “It’s just blissful.”

“I just didn’t find it a particularly joyful year, which may sound ridiculous,” she tells. “I mean, why should I feel joy all the time? But for the most part, I think I did before Covid. It was just harder to feel optimistic.”

Kerre began to search for ways to find her joy again.

“I kept looking for things outside myself in order to get back to being healthy in thought, mind and body. It just wasn’t happening. I was looking at different apps, trying to exercise more, drink less and get better sleep. But an app wasn’t going to do that,” she laughs.

In 2022, she was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. She told the Weekly at the time how she had lost her motivation and was using the experience as a catalyst for change.

“I was looking for things externally to lift my spirit and mood,” she admits. “I did it with the kids, but they’re not my kids – they have to go back to their parents. The happiness had to be found from within me.”

Now, optimism and joy brim her hours and days, filling them to capacity, elements that had eluded her for so long.

Outside of her slot on Newstalk ZB, she loves spending time with Colleen, who she says has become the poster girl for Metlifecare, where she keeps active with a new busy lifestyle that consists of many friendly people and also means Kerre can see a lot more of her mum.

“She’s determined to be happy,” Kerre says. “Whether you’ll be happy or whether you won’t is entirely up to you, really. I suppose I’ve learned that lesson from Mum.”

Kerre Woodham reflects on the fall that changed her life
As a typically sunny person, Kerre found herself shocked by the change within herself. “I was looking for things externally to lift my spirit and mood.”

As an added bonus, Kerre is also now involved with Metlifecare, writing stories and making videos of residents at various villages around the country.

“I’m really enjoying it,” she enthuses. “And the people who I interview genuinely believe they’ve made a good move.”

She also adores her time with Bart, seven, and five-year-old Dora.

“They’re very fluid, like they come through from the upstairs to the downstairs and up again, which is lovely,” she says. “Kate and Ranko have their own lives and their own family. It’s such a privilege to be able to take the kids to swimming lessons or pick them up from school. I won’t get this time with them back again. Kate was their age a heartbeat ago. I remember it so clearly.”

And while she’s not back exercising yet, the ocean is another source of joy.

“I just love being in the sea,” she tells. “I did try ocean swimming back when I was trying to find something other than marathon running. That was just grim – determined stroke after stroke after stroke. You’re not wallowing and joyful, and diving through the waves. I love taking the kids into the sea and I love being by myself in the sea. In the Hokianga I was the only one in there as far as the eye could see. It’s just blissful.”

With family, friends old and new, a great career and hobbies she loves, Kerre has very much rediscovered the things that make her happy. And she’s not taking any of it for granted.

“When I run through the list of things I’m grateful for before I go to sleep, I sometimes fall asleep before I’ve got through them all. Nothing much has happened when you think about it, but there is just so much to be grateful for,” she says with a smile.

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