Here at TOTP, we are all about increasing general wellbeing. And if it involves an activity in nature, even better! With our increasingly busy lives, getting out in nature – or even just looking out the window to a green – can have huge mental health benefits. Bird watching therapy, also known as ornitherapy, will ground you in the moment and provide a sense of calm in an unpredictable, hectic world. Here we look at some of the benefits of bird watching and why birds help depression and mental health in general.
1. Getting back to nature
A lot of our modern lives are spent staring at some sort of screen. We finish our workday of looking at a large screen, and what do we reach for? Our smaller, portable screen! Taking a break from it all and spending some hours in the quiet, peacefulness of nature can help enormously. Especially in the dark, winter months when it can be so tempting just to curl up and watch Netflix. It’s a great way to force yourself out the house and grab any bit of daylight whilst you can.
Research has shown that spending more time indoors is linked with increased anxiety and depression. They also found that people living in areas where there was a higher density of birds, shrubs and trees were not as likely to be affected by anxiety, stress and depression. Even if you don’t have time or transport to get to a traditional bird watching spot, try urban bird watching. You will gain the relaxing benefits from being in any green space – even the local park.
I find bird watching has an almost meditative quality. Quieting and focusing on the mind. If you see a bird you have been looking out for, great. If not – who cares? More than likely you will come home chilled, relaxed and ready for the modern world again.
2. Bird watching physical benefits
Bird watching does not scream high-energy, cardio workout. That’s because it isn’t, generally. But you shouldn’t downplay the physical exertion it takes to get to your bird watching hideaway. Even if it just a short walk through the woods, or through your local neighborhood, it is guaranteed to be a bigger benefit physically than being idle on the sofa!
The physical benefits of bird watching do not end there though. Mental health and physical health are very much intertwined. Since bird watching reduces stress you will perhaps notice a physical effect too. It could lead to better sleep, which leads to a whole host of physical benefits such as a stronger immune system and the ability to maintain a healthy weight.
3. Richness of bird species increases life satisfaction – fact!
A recent study presented in Ecological Economics has shown that people living in places where there is rich bird diversity have an overall higher life satisfaction than those who don’t. Amazingly, the researchers found that they get as much extra life satisfaction from being around birds as they would a pay rise! And this is only the positive effect of having a richness of bird species around you – imagine the impact on your satisfaction when you are mindfully looking out for them! Not to mention, the life satisfaction gained just starting a new hobby or spotting a bird for the first time.
5. Be part of the bird watching community
Being part of a community can have a huge affect on mental health and general wellbeing. As well as being fun, connecting with people with similar interests is a great way to find a sense of belonging and purpose.
Luckily, the bird watching community is strong, passionate and diverse. You can get involved in lots of ways. Birdforum.net is a great resource and is full of birders willing to share their knowledge and bird watching experiences. Or if you prefer to meet other enthusiasts in-person there is sure to be a local group in your area. Get involved!
The bottom line
Watching birds is a great way to get out and about in nature and reduce stress. But even just spending time in the local park or looking out the window can have a positive effect. Getting involved in the online, or offline, bird watching community can also help increase mental wellbeing. Of course, we are not saying that mental health issues can be cured with bird watching. However, it is a great activity to help relax the mind and forget about the stresses of everyday life for a few hours at least.