The health benefits of bird watching

As a kid, I was never an outdoor girl. I had a hard time coping with the weather, and I didn’t know how to connect with the outdoors….unless I was out in nature. I have very clear memories of pretending to be tired to get out of gardening with my family, and helping teachers at recess to stay indoors. But when we went up to our family friends’ cottage, I spent hours outdoors running through the trees and playing on the dock with the other kids.

Now as an adult, I have found nature to be my calming place. I absolutely love going for walks and listening to the nature sounds, ESPECIALLY the chirping of the birds. Even from inside my house, the sound of the chirping birds can make me smile.

One of my favourite tweets 😂 and so true

This tweet made me laugh the other day when it popped up on my feed. I was somewhat indifferent to birds as a kid, though I do remember sitting in the kitchen with a clear view of the tree out the window and getting excited about seeing a blue jay or a cardinal. Other than kitchen bird watching and the occasional trip to the Zoo to see birds, I wasn’t interested any further… and then a while ago my friend and I went for a hike and she named a bird out of no where and I was intrigued. Since then, I have been so much more aware of birds and so much more interested in their different features, sounds and patterns. I guess it’s a lucky thing I work in a nature based day program where my interest in birds thrives in the forest where feeding the birds is part of my program for the littles, and the older clients enjoy sitting at the observation deck and spying what birds they can see.

This post is partially to share my interest in birds, but also to connect to an article I found recently that shared the connection of my interest to my healthcare career. The article is titled “The Surprising Health Benefits of Bird Watching” from the New York Times. In the article, the writer shares an experience of a person who found birdwatching from her home to be helpful in pulling her out of a depressive time after a bout of challenges with her health. The article talks about the benefit of nature (which I definitely subscribe to and use in my Occupational Therapy practice daily!) and how “even a stroll through a city park decreases stress, sharpens concentration and improves long term mental health outcomes”.

A few studies mentioned in this article discuss the benefit of hearing birds singing for our mental wellbeing. One of my favourite comments in the article is the accessibility of birds as a tool for wellbeing, as you can find birds in most habitats. And yes, they even looked at cityscape birds such as pigeons, sparrows and hawks! Although there aren’t studied physical benefits directly related to birds, many birdwatchers share how many walks they go on in order to look for different birds, and we know that walking regularly can help your physical health.

Merlin Bird ID app

I personally love going for walks around my neighbourhood and in local parks to look for birds. I find that the allure of keeping my eyes and ears open for an interesting bird allows me not only to be motivated to walk more, but also allows an active mindfulness practice. I KNOW that I am not the only person who finds mindful practices to be overwhelming because the idea of meditation has you thinking about sitting still and quietly and trying to shut off your ever running brain. Active mindfulness is something that I very much enjoy and believe is the better way for busy brains to practice mindfulness. Years ago, someone told me that I should try imagining I was a tourist in my own city when I was on walks, to allow my brain to enjoy the present more. This was one of my favourite random pieces of advice because it DOES allow me to slow my thoughts and enjoy the world! Yes I have walked the same paths frequently because I love going for walks to calm my mind, but looking for birds and new plants allows me to really have to focus on the moment in front of me. I downloaded the Merlin Bird App from the Apple store, and this has made my focus on the present even more as I can log the different birds I see and it brings my excitement even higher when I do see a new bird! It also gives the natural opportunity to learn, as you need to access that inquiry part of the brain to figure out if you know what bird you’re looking at or if you have never seen it before!

I’ll leave you with this sweet picture of my cat watching the birds enjoying the bird feeder that my mom bought for “us” for Christmas (she definitely bought it for my cats as she asks how they like it all the time). I didn’t know it until recently, but my mom also loves the simple joy of birds and shared with me that enjoying the birds is something you can do even on days you are feeling very low. I absolutely love birdwatching for the simplicity of the activity, the mindfulness it brings my life, and also the childlike energy it allows me to feel. There is nothing more pure than sharing a “OH MY IT’S A (insert bird here)” with a friend! If you have never tried intentionally going out and looking for birds you definitely should! And if you are not a nature person, or walking about outside is not accessible for you, remember nature can be beneficial to you even from inside! My cats and I love watching birds on youtube, and if you close your eyes when the video is on, the sounds are just as beautiful as in nature!

Here are a couple bird videos for you to enjoy if you’d like 🙂 Happy birding!


Published by maiiflowerr

Pronouns She/Her/they/them. I'm a millennial just trying to make a difference in the world, and create space for people to accept themselves and live their best lives. My fiancee, Sydney, and I are mothers to our two goofy cats, and the queens of creative adventures. I am an Occupational therapist, a dancer and a yoga instructor with a passion for supporting people and creating community.

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