The world that we live in can get really toxic at times. Many people deal with this toxic environment in different ways. But at times, it can get too much. People can eventually go into a state of mental breakdown. There are many people who want to talk to a therapist, while many others would like to meditate and release them from this toxicity. Joe Harkness is someone who relies on birds to help him out – a process called Bird Therapy.
Joe Harkness had a terrible mental breakdown. Medications and therapy did not help him deal with it. It almost seemed like a lost cause. But then came the birds in his life. Birds have a reliable pattern – something that Joe observed. During his darkest times when he was suicidal and struggling with alcohol abuse, he would watch birds and find solace in his bird therapy.
The first time he saw noticed the birds and their pattern was during a walk with his partner. They were trying to do something optimistic. It was during this walk that he noticed a few common buzzards showing off their unusual behavior during the breeding season. The scene flooded his mind with brand new memories. Memories of his grandfather introducing birds and their wonders to him. It was then that Harkness knew where his remedy lied. He was shocked that he missed out on this wonder for so long. Instantly, he started to feel at peace and more grounded.
Harkness is a special education needs teacher living in Norfolk. Once he became engrossed in Bird Therapy, he started going into local forums. Bird Therapy is a blog where he documents his cathartic journey of birdwatching. People started following him and soon, media was all over his blog. With the help of crowdfunding, Harkness was able to publish his experiences in a book called Bird Therapy. Connecting with nature has really made him more open about his mental health and his recovery. Chris Packham, a naturalist and TV presenter, has mentioned that this book can actually save lives.
The therapeutic advantages of nature on human lives have been studied before. A study conducted by Stanford University back in 2015 showed that a 90-minute-walk can lower the rumination of a person on negative thoughts. Urban life has a tendency to make people spiral down the pit of negativity by engaging in repetitive negative thoughts. According to Dr. Jason Strauss, nature can be one of the best remedies for this. Nature can help silence the mind.
For Harkness, Birdwatching has helped him to be more aware of himself and where he stands. He mentions how birdwatching is not just watching birds but an experience of taking in the natural air, listening to the rivers and the songs of the birds. It also brings awe upon oneself when they observe the beauty all around them.
Nature has a pattern – a kind of constancy. If you observe this, again and again, it will soothe you into a sense of permanence. For example, even if Harkness is out the whole day, he will return and spot the same birds in his garden at the same time. Bird migration has a pattern too. The same species will be flying from Africa to settle around the neighborhood of Harkness. It helps him to find a different perspective in a changing world.
When people use such a nature-based treatment, it is referred to as Ecotherapy. For example, animal care and conservation projects are examples of this. Beth Collier is a nature-based psychotherapist who claims nature to be like the significant other of all our lives. She has sessions outdoors to engage in natural emotional exploration.
Due to Harkness, many people are also engaging themselves with birdwatching and bird therapy. Here are some tips from Joe Harkness about Bird Therapy:
1. Be aware birds that come in your garden and know how to interact with it. This community is called a bird community. If you want, you can feed them too. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) shares some excellent insight about how to feed birds.
2. Notice the beautiful patterns in their feathers. Even underrated birds are a beauty in itself.
3. Don’t just watch them – listen to them. Identify the difference between a bird call and a bird song.
4. Find a birdwatching patch. Be consistent as you visit this patch regularly and connect yourself with nature.
5. The British Trust for Ornithology and RSPB help in engaging citizen with the different sciences of birdwatching. Engage with them. It can be a great start.
6. Be interested in the outdoors and let the positive energy become one with you. Accept the feeling of breathing and sharpening your senses. Be mindful.
Birds and nature can be extremely therapeutic. Go out and heal yourself.
Feature Image Credit: L Massey Images
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