Watching Birds Offers Cheap Cheep Way to Boost Mental Health
Research says bird watching may lessen levels of anxiety, depression & stress
Posted Nov 13, 2018
Bird Nerd I am.
I’m a bird nerd. They make me happy. Just watching them hop around, flitting here and there, puts a goofy smile on my face. I really love watching the ones in those small wee groups, like juncos, sparrows and robins. Oh and chickadees! Who doesn’t like chickadees? They’re so plucky!
And how cool is that to be named after the sound you make! Chick-a-dee-dee-dee, chick-a-dee-dee-dee. Wait that wouldn’t be so good for us humans, would it? The sounds we mostly make are burps and farts. Yes, we talk, but our ‘organic’ noises aren’t our voices.
Anyway, moving on… I found this scientific tidbit about watching birds (see below to geek out on the research). It confirmed something I was already experiencing.
Simon Science Says: Just Add Birds!
Watch birds - any kind - from a window, in a garden or around your neighborhood. Doing so is associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety & stress, according to a study from the University of Exeter in England.1
Every day I work at my desk in my home office. I’ve purposely positioned it near a window that overlooks our back porch and old growth trees. Each morning I dribble a little bird seed on the railing. The aforementioned juncos, and others, enthusiastically gobble it up. See photo. Each time they jostle, doing their version of bird sumo wrestling to get access to the best feeding point, I smile. I feel like they’re my feathered co-workers. I don’t have to do anything except watch. I get this happy, present-moment-kind-of-feeling seeing them. Life feels simple and that feels good.
Try it out and see if you get the same benefit.
Simon Science Really Say?
According to a University of Exeter study which involved hundreds of people from both urban and rural settings, being able to see birds from windows, and on a daily basis around their neighborhoods, was associated with reduced rates of depression, anxiety, and stress.
Drawing from the ‘attention-restoration theory’ which posits that being in nature, and even simply watching nature, promotes healing and lessens stress, researchers explored the potential benefit of nature to improve mood.
The researchers found no correlation between the species of birds seen, but instead the number, indicating that seeing common birds such as robins, crows, and blackbirds on a regular basis is a key factor.
Evidence shows it’s not about identifying bird types, but instead, interacting with birds.
The UK Health Spectator rightly cautioned that “while the correlation between mood and nature was highly significant....(doesn't explain) the cause of the relationship. For example, do happier people actively seek nature more or does a lack of exposure to nature lead to higher rates of depression, or is there some other factor?”2
As a fairly low effort and no-cost tactic that potentially could reduce anxiety and depression and boost mental wellness, it’s worth a shot, I’d say.
Do you already do this? What’s your experience? If you haven’t, try it out and see if you get any benefit. Email me or comment below and tell me!
© Victoria Maxwell