Lucky enough to get an advance copy of Bird Therapy from writer Joe Harkness and publisher Unbound back in March, the good news is the book is now available for everyone.
It details the therapeutic joys of birdwatching (birding, if you will) and the benefits it can have for your mental health.
That’s exactly what Harkness found out one day following a mental breakdown. And ever since he’s championed the hobby as the wonders of nature worked their magic on his mind.
Harkness offers an open and honest account of his mental health struggle right from the first chapter.
His issues resulted in a suicide attempt in 2013. But not long after, following a chance observation of a bird swooping across his vision, an infatuation with the feathery delights around him opened up a wonderful new world.
And as birdwatching has offered a shining beacon of hope in his life, he wants everyone to take advantage of the activity. His campaigning includes the Bird Therapy blog, as well as this book and various other activities.
Now, it’s important to stress this isn’t a sad story. Quite the opposite. Harkness takes us through a journey of how his investigation into the natural world has improved his life immeasurably.
The power of nature isn’t to be scoffed at. As we’ve found ourselves gazing lovingly at the eccentric local bird community here in Manchester. And if you follow suit in your neighbourhood, you’ll find a quirky world of lovable sorts open up.
They’re inquisitive sorts with cheeky chappy personalities. Pay closer attention to their personalities and you’ll find them to be highly intelligent and sociable.
Almost all of them are characterised by sharp head and neck movements. An alertness that’s incredible to watch.
Bird song is something we hear all the time, too. Many people ignore it out as it’s ubiquitous with daily life. But it’s also tough to hear over the crash of modern human activity, especially for those of us in urban environments.
Harkness’ work is timely beyond belief in our country. England over the last decade hasn’t been pleasant – the less fortunate have been treated as subhuman and there’s a colossal mental health crisis as a result.
So in Bird Therapy we have a focus on the environmental and psychological aspects of modern life – how we can turn our attention to nature and find some life-affirming activity.
As we covered in The Beauty of Everyday Things, happiness and personal success come from minor details. Your favourite mug, a cup of tea, watching a magpie assaulting your bird feeder.
And Harkness’ book is an excellent demonstration as to why paying attention to the world around us is essential.
By simply staring out of your window at a robin singing a ditty, you can find a moment of repose amongst the chaos of modern life.
And reading this timely and impressive work is a fitting way to alleviate the age of anxiety we find ourselves in.
Right, so you don’t need a pair of binoculars and loads of countryside to do this.
Even if you’re in a city environment, use your eyes to see stuff that flies (and not just helicopters or planes). There are birds everywhere – a huge range of species and all of it just above your bonce living out a secret, yet wildly active, life.
For example, there’s a group of magpies that messes around outside our apartment block in Trafford. It’s a pretty gross region of Manchester, but these sorts are one animated bunch.
We get home from work at around 5:00 pm and they’re always there, having a laugh and zooming around the place. Zapping across from one side of the road to the next, eyeing us sharply as we stagger into the apartment block.
And, again, it’s important to understand the level of personality going on here. They’re great fun quirky little beings, are birds, with a lot of mischievous fun about them.
You can take some mighty intricate approaches to getting a closer look at them, too.
In our Bird Photo Booth 2.0 & Ostdrossel’s Fabulous Hungry Birds we covered the camera invented to get a close-up of some impressive beaks.
You don’t have to go to such extreme lengths, of course. All you have to do is go outside and have a wander around – head out to a nature reserve or some nearby forests.
If you’re in the city, find a park. Or go and hang out with the pigeons larking about the place. Or you could even buy a pet bird for your home – a little budgie, for example. A perfect way to complement your day as you sip away at some tea.