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A Feathered Approach to Relaxation

Birding Simply Chills People Out

A Feathered Approach to Relaxation

By John Salak –

Stressed-out people should go for the birds, literally. It just may help them chill out and reduce their risk of developing mental health problems. At least this is what new research from the North Carolina State University reports.

In general, people who have nature-based experiences enjoy better well-being and lower psychological distress than those who do not. But perhaps surprisingly, this study identifies birdwatching in particular as yielding exceptionally promising results. In fact, higher gains in subjective well-being and more reduction in distress were seen for birders than those engaged in more generic nature exposure, such as walks.

The university’s team went as far as to recommend birdwatching for college students—who are among those most likely to suffer from mental health problems.

“There has been a lot of research about well-being coming out and this is an easily accessible activity. The results are encouraging…that suggests adolescents and college-aged kids are struggling the most,” noted Nils Peterson, the study’s corresponding author and a professor at NC State. “Especially when you think about students and grad students, it seems like those are groups who are struggling in terms of access to nature and getting those benefits.”

College students, of course, aren’t the only ones who could benefit from a little feather-based chilling. Millions of Americans of all ages and backgrounds suffer from stress, anxiety and depression.

Millions, however, already consider themselves ornithologists or birders. Just how many depends on who is counting and probably how seriously are the feathered fixations of those involved.

Statista.com, for example, places the number of true birders in the U.S. at about 15 million. Yet a survey conducted on behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that almost 100 million people in the U.S. “closely observed, fed or photographed birds; visited public parks to view birds; or maintained plantings and natural areas around the home for the benefit of birds in 2022.” The service noted that this number represents more than 35 percent of the nation’s population aged 16 and over.

The connection to birds—regardless of its sophistication—is easy to explain, especially in places where wildlife resides close to people, the NC State team explained.





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