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March 2024

To Reduce Your Stress, Birdwatch

Your cat may be onto something. Sitting and watching birds may improve your brain health and well-being.

Here’s how.

Bird benefits

Research shows that being around birds is good for mental health—even if you’re stuck indoors.

A 2022 study found that seeing or hearing birds throughout the day boosted participants’ mental well-being. And a study published in 2021 showed a link between happiness and the number of bird species in people’s towns.

Experts aren’t sure why birds have such a positive effect on us. However, it might have to do with the connection to nature.

Spending time in natural surroundings offers mental health benefits of its own. People who took a 90-minute nature walk had fewer negative thoughts than those who walked in the city. While none of the walkers were necessarily birdwatching, it’s possible that observing birds during a nature walk can dial down stress.

Mental health experts witnessed this first-hand. A small 2021 study of mental health professionals found that birdwatching walks had positive effects on their mood and stress levels. This proved to the psychotherapists and psychiatrists that nature can improve a person’s psychological well-being.

How to start birdwatching

It’s easy to take up birding. Just look out your window! Or take a stroll around your neighborhood and keep your eyes (and ears) peeled. The National Park Service (NPS) also has info about birds in different parks.

If you want to see more, the NPS suggests investing in binoculars to identify birds at a distance. Smaller binoculars are lighter and easier to carry during a walk. However, larger binoculars have better magnification for seeing birds farther away. Try different sizes to see which you prefer.

A bird guide is essential for learning about and identifying the bird species you see. A bird book that organizes species by color may be easiest when getting started. Mobile apps also allow you to identify and log the birds you find. The Audubon Society offers a bird guide app that works with both Apple and Android phones.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik, MBA, BSN, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2023
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