Book review – Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

The introduction by Chris Packham certainly pulls no punches as he writes about his own struggles with mental health. He also speaks highly of the author Joe Harkness, as will any one who takes the time to read this book.

In it the author describes his own breakdown and how he reconnected with his love of birdwatching to increase his wellbeing and help him with his own life. He bases the book around the New Economics Forum’s 5 ways to wellbing – to connect, to take notice, to give, to keep learning, and to be active. All of these can be achieved through birdwatching as Harkness explains. Indeed being outdoors and enjoying it is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Personally I happily spend time each day watching the birds on the feeders in the garden. It may not be a large variety, but as Harkness says when you get an unusual visitor it provides that extra bit of joy. For me the sighting of a robin or a wagtail is a treat, as both are only seen occasionally and normally only in the winter months when their regular sources of food supply are diminished.

His enthusiasm and passion for birds and the countryside in general really comes through loud and clear in his writing. If there is one drawback in the book is that of some illustrations of some of the birds mentioned. I know it is not a birds field guide, however for the casual bird watcher it could help ignite their passion further.

The author never preaches about what you need to do to help with mental well being, rather he provides his and other peoples’ experiences.

Mental health is one of the last taboos and if this book can not only help people, but get people to talk anout their state of mind and feelings then this is a big step. Bird therapy can be enjoyed by anyone and it works, ticking all five of boxes in the aforementioned ways to wellbeing.

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