Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“When life is incessantly exhausting, has thrown you a terrible gluey lump of pain and you feel dreadfully, dingily sad, a leafy place and the sight of a bird in it can divert and begin to heal the mind.”
My first non-fiction read of 2022, and what an incredible journey I’ve just experienced! The Wild Remedy is Emma Mitchell’s personal diary of how nature helps to combat her depression. She records her finds over the course of a year and shows us just how being outdoors with nature has so many benefits for our mental and physical wellbeing. I am so excited to be sharing my review of this inspiring book on the book tour. Do follow all the other reviews from these brilliant book bloggers!
About the book
Emma Mitchell has suffered with depression – or as she calls it, ‘the grey slug’ – for twenty-five years. In 2003, she moved from the city to the edge of the Cambridgeshire Fens and began to take walks in the countryside around her new home, photographing, collecting and drawing as she went. Each walk lifted her mood, proving to be as medicinal as any talking therapy or pharmaceutical.
In Emma’s hand-illustrated diary, she takes us with her as she follows the paths and trails around her cottage and further afield, sharing her nature finds and tracking the lives of local flora and fauna over the course of a year. Reflecting on how these encounters impact her mood, Emma’s moving and candid account of her own struggles is a powerful testament to how reconnecting with nature may offer some answers to today’s mental health epidemic. While charting her own seasonal highs and lows, she also explains the science behind such changes, calling on new research into such areas as forest bathing and the ways in which our bodies and minds respond to plants and wildlife when we venture outdoors.
Written with Emma’s characteristic wit and frankness, and filled with her beautiful drawings, paintings and photography, this is a truly unique book for anyone who has ever felt drawn to nature and wondered about its influence over us.
From reading the introduction to this book and beyond, I was in love with Emma Mitchell’s words! Her honesty and how she writes so openly was so refreshing and I instantly knew so many people would take away something useful from this book or learn a crucially important lesson. Emma lives with depression and has done for 25 years. She doesn’t shy away from it, but speaks truthfully and from the heart about her experiences, and exactly what helps her to alleviate the low mood that clouds over her most days. She’s an absolute inspiration, a woman with so much to give and someone so keen to help anyone else in her shoes. I could tell this book would be such an insightful read and knew right from the start that I’d love everything Emma had to say! Whether that be teaching to overcome depressive thoughts and feelings or simply improving your mental wellbeing in general, I was more than ready to dive into this book head on and see just how nature can mend us.
There were so many interesting facts dotted around the introduction, quotes from authors and poets, things that really captured my interest from the start and held it there. I loved learning about different types of research, things I never knew were being studied, such as how wild plants can alleviate depression and improve health in humans, or simply general facts such as how lower levels of sunshine between November and March can lead to winter depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder for some people. Some of these things were truly fascinating to me, things I felt like talking to people about and starting that all important conversation that needs to be had about our mental health. It’s also equally fascinating to know there are some things about how nature heals us that we don’t yet know the answers to, and that the science is still progressing. I was so excited to get into the book – I was so engrossed in the few pages of the intro that I just knew I’d love what was to come!
There are multiple sections in this book, each focusing on a different month of the year. The author takes us on her journey throughout each of these months, from October through to September, and shares so many details of her activities and her findings. It was utterly absorbing and quite mesmerising hearing Emma’s take on the healing benefits of nature and exactly what it does for her through the months, and I instantly got a strong urge to grab my dog’s lead and go out for a walk through the fields. There are some brilliant pieces of photography and detailed illustrations of Emma’s favourite parts of nature and the outdoors, which all perfectly captures nature in all its beautiful forms. The way the author writes was so clever and witty, and the book even felt fictional at times in a completely unique way, even though it was her diary! The way she describes everything she does felt like I was seeing things with my own eyes which is exactly what I was hoping for, and already, so much of what she had to say was stuck in my mind.
The more I got to know Emma as each month in her diary passed by, the more I liked her and if we ever met, I knew we’d have a friendship of some sort! The description continues to be so vivid and with each sentence, I was effortlessly transported away from reality for a while. What’s even better is that I could easily take Emma’s advice on board whenever I felt like I needed to. The outdoors is simply a few steps away, and my journeys outdoors since reading this book have certainly been transformed. I’ve started to take in life’s simple pleasures, to appreciate every part of nature and everything that surrounds us, and I’ve felt so much better for it. The colder months tend to be my least favourite, but since reading Emma’s words, I’m looking forward to experiencing every season again and to really appreciate what each brings before the next arrives. Immersing myself in the pages of this book has been an instant mood booster at times, just as much as being outdoors.
“Annie is the orange dog who draws me out on days when the black dog sinks its teeth into my neurons and bites down hard.”
However, the book isn’t just full of the positive aspects of being outdoors. We get to experience these seasons through Emma’s eyes, and with that comes the harsh reality of depression, how the coldest, dullest parts of the year can be some of the hardest. I could relate to a lot of things Emma discussed here; how the winter time can feel like scaling a mountain and how it can completely drain your body of vitality. Emma describes that forcing herself to go out for a walk in these times is crucial for her thoughts, whatever the weather. I feel like having a dog is such a great excuse to get outdoors every day – no matter how rubbish I feel, I force myself to go out because the dog needs her walkies! No matter how much I don’t feel like it sometimes, I always get home glad for the fresh air, so I really understood Emma’s points on this. I loved how she balances the good with the bad, how she doesn’t hide her thoughts and feelings. Emma has quickly become someone who I really admire for her honesty.
As the months pass in the book, I began to long for springtime, and it was an immense joy reading Emma’s views, how her days get better with warmer temperatures, new plant growth and spotting different bird species, but this wasn’t before we hear more about Emma’s depression in much more detail. After experiencing suicide bereavement first hand over the past year, it was very emotional, yet powerful reading everything Emma goes through. I appreciated the detail she goes into and it can’t have been easy to write about, but I do wish people were more open to talking about the topic like this. It’s so important! Reading about how she seeks help and improves slowly after this depressive episode felt like a relief, but it wasn’t the first episode and it wouldn’t be the last. The whole experience of the book was far from what I expected initially, but it’s incredibly eye-opening and one of the best of its kind.
The final few months Emma takes us through were just as insightful as the rest. My spirits lifted as I read about the bees and the beautiful flowers full of colour. I loved the snippets of information about animal wildlife and just how catching a glimpse of different beautiful creatures can be an instant mood lifter, especially Emma’s description of a nightingale. I felt the book was ending on a more positive note, despite there still being some themes of depression, and by this point I fully understood just why Emma is so appreciative of nature. I wholeheartedly believe that anyone going through depression or negative mental health in any aspect can take so much away from spending just a little time outdoors. Emma even passes on her knowledge to her own daughter, and reading about their experiences together was just completely heartwarming. Hearing about rare sightings of wildlife (animal and plant) in different places were enough to encourage Emma to get outdoors, and it was some seriously inspiring stuff.
My overall thoughts on this book were overwhelmingly positive, another book that will stick with me for a lifetime. I’ve learnt so much more about depression and what an absolute monster it is, and found the book to balance this informative side with some wholesome, insightful, good-for-the-soul stories and experiences with nature. It’s so powerful, so utterly engrossing that it was very difficult to put down. Emma has changed my mindset for the better, taught me to appreciate the little things in life and to fully embrace nature – something that can do so much to brighten our moods. It’s well and truly magical. I’d encourage anyone struggling with their mental health to take a chance on this perfectly written book full of real, relatable experiences.
A huge thank you to the author, Emma Mitchell, and Love Books Tours for my copy of this book and my place on the book tour! You can purchase your own copy of The Wild Remedy right now over on Amazon, available on Kindle and audiobook, as well as in paperback and hardback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter and Instagram for updates!
Looking for book reviews?
If you’re in need of reviews for your own book, do get in touch to get on my submissions list! All the information you need is on my book reviews page. If you enjoyed this review and would like to support my blog, you can buy me a coffee 😊