As part of mental health awareness week, we wanted to share some of our favourite books in our collection to help you take care of your own wellbeing. Books that soothe and inspire and make us realise that we’re not alone in feeling anxious, worried, lonely and all those other human emotions that we all experience from time to time.
In Joe Harkness’ celebrated memoir ‘BirdTherapy’, Harkness explains how his love for nature helped him beat depression. After he found that medication and therapy had a limited impact on him, he discovered the cure in practising gratitude for animals, particularly birds as he gazed up at them flying majestically, both alone and in formation. How had he never noticed such beauty before? The positive change in Joe's wellbeing was so profound that he has become a spokesperson for the benefits of birdwatching.
There is nothing more essential to our health and wellbeing than breathing: take air in, let it out, repeat. Yet, as a species, humans have lost the ability to breathe correctly. Journalist James Nestor travels the world to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. The answers aren't found in pulmonology labs, as we might expect, but in the muddy digs of ancient burial sites, secret Soviet facilities, New Jersey choir schools, and the smoggy streets of São Paulo, Brazil. Nestor tracks down men and women exploring the hidden science behind ancient breathing practices like Pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya and Tummo and teams up with pulmonary tinkerers to scientifically test long-held beliefs about how we breathe. Modern research is showing us that making even slight adjustments to the way we inhale and exhale can jump-start athletic performance, rejuvenate internal organs and even halt snoring, allergies, asthma and autoimmune disease. Breath turns the conventional wisdom of what we thought we knew about our most basic biological function on its head. You will never breathe the same again.
Professor Steve Peters shares his successful mind-management programme that has been used to help elite athletes and senior managers to conquer their fears and operate with greater control, focus and confidence. Peters uses a simple analogy to break down the workings of the mind and how to keep the chimp and the human working in harmony to dispel negative emotions, set goals and trive single-mindedly towards achieving them.
A man's wife dies. What next? He smothers his sorrow and gets on with the days, but his brain won't rest. As a neuropsychologist he has spent a career trying to fathom the human brain, but now, he comes to realise, his brain is struggling to make sense of him. Combining neurological case stories and memoir, and with excursions into speculative fiction and mythology, this is deeply personal meditation on grief, time and selfhood.
The former elite military operative and now bestselling author knows a thing or two about achieving the seemingly impossible. He came to terms with his unconventional upbringing and the feelings of inadequacy it caused by pursuing the military’s Holy Trinity, passing the notorious selection processes of the Parachute Regiment, Royal Marines and the Special Forces. Since then, he has been no stranger to the discomfort of pursuing meaningful goals, including climbing Everest and recreating the arduous 3,600-mile voyage made by Captain Bligh in the famous ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’. Middleton believes that stepping out of your comfort zone is what sets you free from your constraints. Being prepared to step outside the ‘Fear Bubble’ is how we can achieve our goals because we are not restricted by fear of failure but are instead propelled by the freedom of attempting to pursue what we find meaningful.
There’s a reason the Danish are consistently ranked amongst the happiest people on Earth. That reason, according to Meik Wiking, of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, is hygge. Pronounced ‘hoo-gah’, hygge is an important aspect of the culture and refers to the practice of enjoying the good things in life in as many ways as possible. Anything especially enjoyable comes under hygge. Bike rides and picnics, movie nights and candle-lit rooms. Essentially, it’s about gratitude for the simple things in life and ensuring that because they are so meaningful, they are experienced often and understood as essential. This is the perfect introduction to the hygge way of life, detailing the things you can apply immediately.
Speaking of the simple things, Barney Bardsley’s book on the healing power of horticulture is enough to get you out in the garden and preparing it for the spring. After her husband passed away aged 36, she struggled to cope, whilst raising their one-year-old daughter. Charting the changing seasons with musings about the honeybees, birds and bluebells, Bardsley found that her ability to cope with the stresses of life flourished along with the plants and vegetables in her allotment. It’s a moving and hopeful handbook to overcoming stress and grief by finding solace in nature.
Filled with information, exercises, tips and strategies from ancient philosophers and modern-day experts, Buckingham’s book tracks the historic quest for happiness, including where spirituality meets science. Delving into the beneficial effects of religious and ritualistic practises including meditation and compassion for others, the author substantiates them with the views of psychologists, outlining the theory behind their power and providing an easy-to-use guide on how to implement them.
Spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh shares the essential foundations of mindful practise and mediation. From unlocking the connection to our inner self, forging deeper and more meaningful bonds with those around us to discovering a true sense of oneness with our natural world, this is the essential guide to help you master the art of connection.
Why is it that the inhabitants of the Mediterranean island of Sardinia are two or three times as likely as any other people on earth to live to 100? Ben Hills travels around the island, meeting up with a cast of colourful centenarians while capturing Sardinia's glorious landscape and lifestyle.
Prompted by the seeming hopelessness of the world around her, Bernadette Russell undertook a pledge to be kind to a stranger every day for a year. Her experience left her wanting to inspire others. Here are some fun ideas, practical tips and interactive exercises that encourage you to 'be kind' in every area of life.
These poetic prescriptions and wise words of advice offer comfort, delight and inspiration for all. Whether you are suffering from loneliness, lack of courage, heartbreak, hopelessness, or even from an excess of ego, there is something here to ease your pain.
Jay Shetty’s now-famous guide to peaceful living is inspirational. Having spent three years as a monk in India, meditating between 4-8 hours a day and devoting his time to helping others and learning the wisdom of Vedic Hindu teachings, he has now dedicated himself to being a personal mentor to millions of people around the world. With a No. 1 podcast and over 4.2 million subscribers on YouTube, his guidance clearly resonates.
In ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’, Matt Haig openly speaks about his battle with depression and anxiety. It’s a hugely relatable book about what millions of people are going through, yet which often makes you feel like you are alone. Haig’s honesty demonstrates that this is the furthest thing from the truth as he writes about how he endured his darkest moments. He found that love, literature, yoga, running and time were among the most important antidotes to negative emotion.
In Therapy: How Conversations with Psychotherapists Really Work by Susie Orbach and BBC Radio 4, breaks down the barriers to help you decide if this is the right path for you. In the UK alone, over one million people are seeing therapists on a regular basis. Insightful and honest about a process often necessarily shrouded in secrecy, this is an essential read for those curious about, or considering entering, therapy.