If your life is busy and full of stress, you’re a great candidate for bird-watching, as it is very relaxing and offers a way to connect with nature in a healthy, restorative way.
And any relaxing activity can help you reduce your tension.
But why is bird watching so relaxing?
Bird watching is so relaxing because it allows you to connect with nature in a meaningful way, quietly and meditatively. According to the attention-restoration theory, these kinds of relationships with nature reduce stress and improve your health and well-being long term.
Why Bird Watching Is So Relaxing
There are many health benefits associated with being out in nature, but these are especially powerful when you’re actively building a meaningful connection to your environment.
Birding is the perfect example of such an experience because it allows you to really get to know other species in a meaningful way.
It is also a calm activity that doesn’t require stress or adrenaline. While it can be exciting to see something new, overall, the activity requires silence and patience as you wait for birds to show themselves.
Birding is meditative and transports you to a different world.
Bird songs are another reason why bird watching is so relaxing.
The sound of birds singing is the most common sound associated with time spent in nature, which is strong enough to reduce stress and improve most people’s attention.
Watching birds also place your worries and concerns in a different perspective.
By focusing on birds and their lives, you see their struggles for survival and recognize the comfort and security you have in your own life, which allows you to see how you have similarities with birds.
You can then reconnect with your basic needs and instincts in a healthy way.
How Bird Watching Can Improve Your Health
Birding offers people the opportunity to connect with the outdoors in a calm way, basking in the stillness of a moment while at the same time connecting with other species.
It feels good for many reasons, a lot of which stem from attention-restoration theory.
Attention-restoration theory says that time in nature, and especially time watching nature, decreases stress and promotes healing in many ways.
The exact reasons this phenomenon happens are unclear at this point, but it’s been proven in many studies that associations with nature have this effect.
Mental Health Benefits of Bird Watching
Spending time in nature is known to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, relieving a sense of isolation and loneliness.
It can also improve cognitive functions like memory and attention and reduce stress.
Blood pressure and stress hormones drop when you spend time in nature, which in turn relieves chronic mood problems.
In Scotland, the U.K. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) collaborates with 10 health centers to give patients opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy nature.
They treat anxiety, depression, and conditions like diabetes with time spent not just in nature but truly getting to know and appreciate it.
The therapeutic qualities of nature have also been recognized in the United States, where there are now 87 programs nationally that prescribe time in nature to medical patients.
One example is Park Rx America, a non-profit organization of healthcare professionals that prescribe connections with nature as a part of treating chronic disease.
Bird-Watching Builds Communities
The benefits of having a community are far-reaching, from increased resilience in the face of illness to lower amounts of chronic stress.
Supportive social relationships actually boost immunity and lower cortisol levels in the short term and long term.
If you’re looking for community and a sense of belonging, look no further than the birding community. There are 45 million Americans who regularly watch birds, 9 million of whom are between the ages of 18 and 35.
The following are common ways that you can get in touch with fellow birders:
- Bird walks are often available at wildlife refuges and other conservation areas, usually free and led by bird behavior experts.
- eBird is an app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society that allows you to see what bird sightings there have been in a particular place, and you can upload your own data while using the app to connect with other birders.
- Social media groups are a popular way to get in touch with other birders, whether it be a local chapter of the Audubon Society or an independent group. Before joining, be sure to read a group’s guidelines to see if they’re offering the kind of community sharing you’re looking for.
- Social media hashtags are also used as a way of sharing birding information within an online community. For example, the hashtag #Birders is commonly used when sharing photos and videos of bird sightings, as well as other pertinent information for birders.
- Bird festivals like the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge are a great way to meet other birders. You can learn from experts alongside other beginners at these festivals and go on field trips to improve your birding skills.
- Citizen science opportunities abound in the world of birding. Through the Audubon Society and Bird Watcher’s Digest, you can join a number of different projects counting birds and noting their behavior on a massive scale.
While you can watch birds from anywhere, getting seriously into birding likely means that you’ll be hiking to birding hotspots.
This could mean anything from hiking to a local park to making a trip to an Important Bird Area (IBA) or wildlife refuge for an extended hike.
Birders often enjoy hiking as a way of getting to quieter, more remote locations for watching birds.
Why the Number of Birds You See Matters
A study from the University of Exeter showed that whether you live in an urban or a rural setting, seeing more birds on a daily basis reduces the appearance of chronic health problems like anxiety and depression.
However, the species seen does not make a difference, so it’s just as valuable to come across a common robin as it is to spot an albatross.
In fact, seeing many common birds routinely has a much bigger impact than seeing one rare bird on occasion.
How To See More Birds
There are many ways to increase the number of birds that you come across on a daily basis, whether or not you’re already a birder.
Check out the following tips from experienced birders:
- Be quiet. Birds can hear very well and startle very easily, so it’s important that you don’t make noise. Even small noises can send birds fleeing for cover.
- Avoid sudden movements, which can also startle birds. When you see a bird, move slowly and deliberately if you want to get closer.
- Listen for the call of a bird, and follow. Many songbirds will flock together, both with members of their own species and others. In the fall, one ‘chip’ sound from high in the trees can signal a dozen warblers. And in winter, a ‘seep’ sound from a thicket may signal the presence of 20 or more cardinals, sparrows, towhees, and other seed eaters.
- Walk near a bird habitat if possible, whether that be open fields, trees, or thickets. Know your habitats, and you’ll have a greater chance of encountering birds on a regular basis.
- Be patient. Having a still moment outside is a great way to encourage birds to come out.
- Avoid wearing brightly colored clothes, which make you more visible to birds.
- Use an app like eBird to find out where birds like to congregate in areas near you.
Bird watching is a relaxing way to connect with nature, so much so that medical professionals have prescribed bird watching as a way to decrease stress in patients with anxiety and depression.
This is because bird watching is quiet and meditative and is strongly associated with being a part of nature.