More and more Americans are becoming health conscious these days. They are eating less red meat, more fish, more leafy and colorful vegetables and more whole grain foods. The infamous food pyramid is constantly being reworked, leaving many people confused as to what food groups are what and how much of each they should be eating. Which dairy products are good and which aren’t?
One day some new study is being reported by the media that shows that coffee is good for you and then another one says coffee is not good for you.
Nuts like raw almonds and walnuts help lower blood pressure and blood glucose levels yet they contain a lot of fat that isn’t good for diet and weight loss.
Then there are always new reports on how much exercise one needs or should get every day or every week. One report says 20 minutes a day, seven days a week and another says 30 minutes a day at least 3 days a week. Other reports says that too much exercise lowers a person’s sex drive so that could be a problem as well.
But what about our mental health? Are there things we can do that are proven to improve our mental health?
I’ve seen many reports that indicating that doing things like puzzles help with mental health and can even help keep the mind of an older person sharper. I’ve read several studies that things like Sudoku puzzles are great for mental health, if one can keep from becoming frustrated. They force the mind to think and reason and are considered to be exercises for the mind on same par as walking and jogging are for the physical body.
Don’t laugh or scoff but now you can add bird watching to the list of things that are said to be good for one’s mental health. According to a new study conducted by the University of Exeter, University of Queensland and the British Trust for Ornithology:
“People living in neighbourhoods with more birds, shrubs and trees are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress…”
“The study, involving hundreds of people, found benefits for mental health of being able to see birds, shrubs and trees around the home, whether people lived in urban or more leafy suburban neighbourhoods.”
“The study, which surveyed mental health in over 270 people from different ages, incomes and ethnicities, also found that those who spent less time out of doors than usual in the previous week were more likely to report they were anxious or depressed.”
“After conducting extensive surveys of the number of birds in the morning and afternoon in Milton Keynes, Bedford and Luton, the study found that lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress were associated with the number of birds people could see in the afternoon. The academics studied afternoon bird numbers – which tend to be lower than birds generally seen in the morning – because are more in keeping with the number of birds that people are likely to see in their neighbourhood on a daily basis.”
“In the study, common types of birds including blackbirds, robins, blue tits and crows were seen. But the study did not find a relationship between the species of birds and mental health, but rather the number of birds they could see from their windows, in the garden or in their neighbourhood.”
Bird watching is easy and doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment or knowledge. One can get a bird guide to their area and binoculars if they want, but simply watching out a window, sitting in the yard or talking a walk down the street or to the park can be all it takes to watch our feathered friends. It can be coupled with physical exercise or it can be done by anyone with physical limitations and limited mobility.
Whenever you find yourself feeling stressed, anxious or even depressed and down in the dumps, take some time to look or go outside and watch our feathered friends. According to this latest study, your stress, anxiety and depression will fly away along with the pigeons, Cardinals, robins, sparrows, wrens and more.
Although the study didn’t address added benefits of bird watching, from what I’ve read of other studies about exercising the mind, learning to identify the different birds by sight, their song or the way the fly should also prove to help with one’s mental health and keeping the mind active.