Book Review - Walking on Sunshine, 52 Small Steps to Happiness by Rachel Kelly


Following Rachel Kelly’s eye opening first hand account of the debilitating effects of depression through her memoir Black Rainbow I’m very happy to say that her second book, whilst covering no less serious subject matter, offers the reader a more light hearted journey through life’s trials and tribulations.


Over the course of a year Rachel shares her top tips for improving and maintaining good mental health; written in a very accessible yet totally credible style, with excellent accompanying illustrations from Jonathan Pugh (Daily Mail cartoonist), this was a delight to read.


One of the beauties of the book is its universal appeal; it can just as easily appeal to someone who has had no significant mental health issues, as someone who has suffered considerably. Whilst the book doesn’t claim to be able to reverse someone’s severe depression or cure schizophrenia, in its capacity as an instruction manual it is second to none.


The book works through effectively combining recommended psychological approaches to ‘tackling life’ (for want of a better term) with practical lifestyle advice. Recurring throughout the book (or the year, as the ‘52 steps’ are set out) is the theme of mindfulness; to feel and appreciate the present. The rationale that so many of our anxieties concern events in the past or the unknown of the future is addressed through advice on breathing exercises, a chapter on embracing the new day, emphasis on enjoying the journey of life, questioning the validity of the conventional meaning of ‘success’ and stressing just how important it is to ‘be’ rather than ‘do / achieve’ all the time.


These insights are balanced with practical advice on topics such as diet, making time for therapeutic activities such as baking and time to play and be light hearted, being careful with alcohol and ensuring sufficient exposure to sunshine and vitamin D. Admittedly, many of the practical pieces of advice aren’t revolutionary; most people know that exercising and not drinking excessively lead to better mental health but as in Black Rainbow Rachel has judged to perfection the balance between science (i.e. facts) and opinions. Including detail on good bacteria in the aptly named chapter ‘Psychobiotics’ and how these can improve our mood, as well the role of vitamin D3 in boosting serotonin levels are timely reminders of the science behind the advice, and contrast well with emotive approaches taken elsewhere in the book.


Above all the book is a pertinent reminder that the answers to many of our mental health issues don’t lie exclusively in medication, or even doctors appointments or therapy but can be found through approaches to life and lifestyle choices. I’ve already recommended this book to friends and I have no hesitation in recommending it to all of Cathartic’s users.


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