Often seen in meadows and hay fields, Bobolink males look like reverse-tuxedos and sing a bubbling, virtuosic song that earned them the 19th century nickname “ricebirds”. Their decline is tied to the loss of grasslands.
A recent study showed that people experiencing a moment of seeing or hearing birds experience improved mental health—and these benefits can last up to eight hours.
Mental health is the emotional, psychological and social well-being of a person. It influences cognition, perception and behavior, affecting how a person manages stress, interacts with others, and makes decisions. Psychologists, psychiatrists and primary care clinicians treat mental illnesses by helping a person understand the root cause of their symptoms and work on healthier thought patterns that support healthy functioning, reduce anxiety and improve sleep, relationships, mood and energy.
New research from King’s College London found that everyday encounters with birds are associated with improvements in mental wellbeing. The benefits were even seen in people with existing diagnoses like depression — the most common mental illness worldwide. This was uncovered by smartphone-based ecological momentary assessment (EMA) that collected participants’ real-time reports of their moods alongside their experiences with birdlife.
Bird watching is a fun, relaxing activity that provides some exercise. Just taking a walk in nature to find a rare or exciting species of bird can release endorphins, the hormones that boost mood and reduce stress.
In a recent study, researchers discovered that those who regularly spot birds outdoors have a lower risk of depression and anxiety. People who lived in neighborhoods with lots of vegetation and a higher number of spotted birds showed the greatest stress reduction.
Another benefit of bird spotting is that it often makes us laugh. Short-term laughter relieves stress and soothes tension. Just think about the funny antics of a Bobolink with its reverse-tuxedo pattern, or the 19th century English pronunciation of its name that morphed into “Bob o’ Lincoln.” Birds are truly fascinating creatures!
Research out of King’s College London found that seeing or hearing birds is associated with a positive boost in mood that lasts up to eight hours. The study tapped into 1,300 volunteers who used a mobile phone app to log their mood multiple times a day, noting whether they saw or heard birds. The researchers found that those moments of encountering nature were linked to better moods – and this effect was independent of factors like seeing trees, plants or water.
This research supports previous qualitative studies showing that people enjoy and feel a connection to birdlife and find it restorative (Belaire et al. 2015). It also bolsters the idea that emotional engagement with nature, including noticing and valuing the presence of birds, may be one pathway to wellbeing and nature connectedness (Passmore and Holder 2017; Lumber et al. 2018).
Mood stabilization is the key to long-term mental health, especially when you suffer from a mood disorder like bipolar. Mood stabilizers can be in the form of talk therapy, exercise, healthy eating, sleep and supplements and medications. Various forms of talk therapy have been proven to help with mood stabilization, including interpersonal and social rhythm therapy. Other therapies include cognitive-behavioural therapy and family-focused education about bipolar disorder.
A recent study published in Scientific Reports found that hearing and seeing birds improves a person’s mental wellbeing, including people suffering from depression. The researchers used a smartphone app called Urban Mind to ask people to report on their moods as well as the presence of birds. The results showed that the improved moods associated with sighting or hearing birds lasted for up to eight hours and were not explained by other environmental factors such as trees, plants or waterways.
One of the most interesting link bird benefits is a boost in energy. This is due to the fact that these birds tend to feed on rice, which is rich in nutrients and has been proven to increase mental alertness. When fed regularly, this can lead to a better focus and attention.
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