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Books on mental health, mindfulness and connecting with nature

Browse our list of recommended books for getting active and taking notice of wildlife and the world around us.

Woman reading a book outdoors. © Atsushi Yamada/Getty

These books examine the effect that the natural world has on our mental health, and provide tips on connecting with it.

Studies in the field of positive psychology have shown that our level of ‘nature connectedness’ directly relates to both our hedonic (short-term happiness and pleasure) and eudaimonic (long-lasting joy and life satisfaction) wellbeing.

Eudaimonic happiness – achieved by pursuing personal development, knowledge and growth – is particularly important to our overall wellbeing as it is more fulfilling in the long term. One of the simplest ways we can strengthen our connection to nature to our life-long gain, is the act of identifying and naming.

Being able to identify and name a particular species also requires us to look closely, or maybe to listen or to smell, to focus and notice the sometimes-subtle differences that distinguish one species from another. This noticing is, in itself, a form of mindfulness; this singular purpose a way to be present, clear our minds and let go of stress or anxiety.

“Learning about nature has definitely increased my sense of connection to the natural world,” saysFlorence Williams, author of The Nature Fix.

“Being more tuned in to what the birds are doing, for example, has helped me be more mindful and aware of my surroundings. When we notice things like that, it pulls us briefly out of the soundtrack of our own thoughts and worries, and that’s a very healthy thing.”

Did you know? 

Reading for six minutes lowers cortisol, and with it your stress level, by 68%. It works by helping to clear your mind and minimise body tension. 

Related content: 

Mindful Thoughts for Birdwatchers: Finding awareness in nature

By Adam Ford. Published by Leaping Hare Press, £5.99.


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Mindful Thoughts For Birdwatchers

Discover hidden birdlife in the city, the art of listening deeply and why birdwatching is so good for our wellbeing, all interspersed with Adam Ford’s mindful thoughts on the interconnectedness of nature.

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

By Florence Williams. Published by W. W. Norton & Company, £12.99.

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Screenshot 2020-04-03 at 14.55.02

As she sets out to discover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain, Florence Williams’ journey takes her from rural Scotland to South Korean cypress forests and demonstrates that even small amounts of exposure to the natural world can improve our creativity and boost our mood.

The Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us – A Diary

By Emma Mitchell. Published by Michael O’Mara, £14.99.

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The Wild remedy cover

An honest and moving account of Emma Mitchell’s woodland walks, nature finds and wildlife discoveries over the course of a year – including 100 hand-drawn illustrations and 40 colour photographs by Emma – The Wild Remedy details how each encounter with nature significantly influenced her mental wellbeing.

Read an extract from The Wild Remedy by Emma Mitchell, and try out Emma Mitchell’s recipe for an autumnal berry cocktail from her Making Winter book.

Bird Therapy

By Joe Harkness. Published by Unbound, £9.99.

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Bird Therapy PB Cover

This deeply touching and inspiring book began its life as a blog, recounting Joe Harkness’ experience of anxiety, depression and breakdown and the surprising, subtle and yet profound way watching birds helped to heal his mental health. Filled with practical advice, Harkness invites us to discover the therapeutic benefits for ourselves.

Read Joe Harkness’ feature for BBC Wildlife on mental health and birdwatching.

The Almanac Journal

By Lia Leendertz. Published by Mitchell Beazley, £14.99.

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The Almanac Journal

Lia Leendertz is the creator of The Almanac – A Seasonal Guide to 2020, a beautiful reinvention of the traditional rural almanac, which invites us to connect with and appreciate nature and the seasons.

Newly released is The Almanac Journal – a place to create your own personal almanac, starting and ending at any point in the year, with spaces for sketches, notes, recipes, pressed flowers and more.

By the Sea: The therapeutic benefits of being in, on and by the water

By Dr Deborah Cracknell. Published by Aster, £14.99.

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By The Sea

We know, instinctively, that being by the sea is good for us. Marine biologist Dr Deborah Cracknell sets out to explore the science behind our relationship with the ocean and its power to enhance our wellbeing, with tips on deepening this connection, as well as highlighting the threats our oceans face and how we can care for them.

Dark Skies – A Journey into the Wild Night

By Tiffany Francis. Published by Bloomsbury, £16.99.

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Dark Skies

Writer, artist and environmentalist Tiffany Francis travels through nightscapes in the UK and Europe, from Finland and Arctic Norway to a nocturnal sail down the UK’s River Dart, in this exploration of how our wellbeing is linked to our relationship with nature and the dark.

Enjoy Tiffany Francis’ recipes from her Food You Can Forage book.

Ring The Hill

By Tom Cox. Published by Unbound, £9.99.

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Ring The Hill PB Cover

Ring The Hill ​is a book about walking in nature, in which “the stories somewhat mirror the digressive rhythms of walks themselves”. Each chapter takes a type of hill – a knoll, a cap, a cliff, a tor – as a starting point for an intimate, and at times laugh-out-loud funny, exploration of nature, landscape, folklore and much more.

Feel Better in 5: Your Daily Plan to Feel Better For Life

By Dr Rangan Chatterjee. Published by Penguin Life, £16.99.

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Feel Better in 5

Stress and wellbeing expert Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s latest book is full of quick and easy ways to feel healthier in mind and body, with his ‘micro-prescriptions’ including time spent in nature, simple mindfulness practices and easy-to-do-at-home exercises.


Main image: Woman reading a book outdoors. © Atsushi Yamada/Getty