Bird lovers have always known that nature has some potently positive effects on the human mind, body and spirit. Now science is quantifiably proving it. Consider this:
• Surrounding yourself with nature – whether a birding hike in the woods or backyard bird watching – actually lowers your pulse, reduces blood pressure and helps you think more clearly.
• A study from England’s University of Exeter proved that people – regardless of income level – living in neighborhoods with many trees and birds were less likely to experience depression and chronic stress.
• A separate study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that simply listening to bird songs restores your attention and helps recover from anxiety.
• Essential oils naturally released by trees and plants (think of the scent of cedar, cypress or evergreen), don’t just relax people, they also stimulate the body’s production of cancer-fighting natural killer cells.
• Doctors in Scotland have begun prescribing birdwatching and hiking as part of treatment plans for patients with diabetes, heart disease, chronic stress and other maladies.
The reasons for all this are pretty clear. As Florence Williams so eloquently describes in her best-selling book, The Nature Fix, we humans are built to enjoy the benefits of nature. Indeed, it’s where we’ve spent the lion’s share of our existence as a species. Only recently have we walled ourselves off from it in homes, cubicles, cars and Starbucks lines. Sadly, most Americans spend 93% of their time indoors today, according to the EPA.
So, count yourself fortunate as one of the 45 million Americans who revel in birds and the natural world they inhabit. In the most literal sense, I can’t think of a healthier interest to love!