Birdwatching, a sanctuary of health benefits

Study claims birdwatching reduces stress and improves mental health, so look out for your feathered friends daily in your balcony, neighbourhood gardens, national parks, wetlands or bird sanctuaries

Fast-paced life has mounted stress levels, leading to anxiety and other mental illnesses. But there’s a simple, accessible antidote that can significantly improve your mental well-being: birdwatching. A new study from North Carolina State University published

in the Journal of Environmental Psychology claims that bird-watching can help college students improve their mental health. Since college students are more susceptible to mental health issues. Dr Sathiya Selvam, head of Wetlands and Flyways programme, BNHS, says that birdwatching experience has increased in the urban cities. “People are stressed due to work. They want to free their mind and the easiest way to do this is birdwatching. The simplest way to do this is by opening their windows and spotting birds. This mindfulness practice helps people to take a break from the constant chatter of their worries and anxieties,” Dr Sathiya says.

The melody of birdsong plays a key role in the mental health benefits of birdwatching. Several studies have shown that listening to birdsong can significantly reduce stress and anxiety. “I love to listen to songs by birds outside my window while working or even waking up to the dawn chorus of city birds is a joyful start to the day,” says Shivani Shenoy (25), a Bengaluru-based Illustrator and Visual Designer. Watching birds and learning to identify different bird calls becomes a rewarding activity. It expands sensory awareness and appreciation for the natural world. More than just a hobby, birdwatching is a holistic experience of learning more than just about birds but life lessons and the surrounding ecosystem.

A Sanctuary for the Mind

Birdwatching, the act of observing birds in their natural habitat, is more than just a hobby for enthusiasts. Simple observations like birds preening feathers, stretching wings, foraging insects, seeds or fish, making calls, picking threads to build their nest or gathering to roost are therapeutic.

Birdwatching requires one to focus on the sights and sounds around us. Sangeeta Parameswaran (45), a Mumbai-based HR (Operations Head) at Blue Star says, “Like meditation, birdwatching is about being in the present and mindful, detaching oneself from worries and preoccupations. It is an activity that helps people bond over.” She often takes her niece and nephew birding. “The experience teaches them the importance of patience, how to stay quiet and observe. It helps the children to value nature and understand the significance and function of the entire ecosystem,” she says.

Beyond Birdwatching

Beyond just learning the behaviour and daily chores of different species of birds, it is essential to learn about their habitat and the eco-life around it. Shivani says that while birding on the weekends, she feels a unique sense of connection to the world. “Listening to bird calls and observing the green foliage has made me feel more grounded because of its multisensory nature.” In 2010, Hari Krishna Adepu (43), a Hyderabad-based Senior Solutions Architect, started birdwatching to destress. He founded Hyderabad Birding Pals. He conducts bird walks every Sunday. He says, “In our bird walks, new joinees are given more attention as they know very little about birds and the surroundings. Bird watchers are first taught to observe the birds with binoculars and are instructed not to get into a frenzy with the camera. They are told to learn the habitat and habits of the bird initially to acquaint themselves with the bird to further initiate their step into photography.”

Birdwatching offers a sense of accomplishment and discovery. Identifying a new bird species or witnessing a unique behaviour triggers dopamine, keeping the birdwatchers engaged and motivated while fostering a sense of purpose and excitement. The ‘hunt’ for new bird sightings adds another layer of enjoyment. Birdwatchers often spend time researching local bird populations, learning their calls and identifying their habitats. Once, Sangeeta and fellow bird watchers heard a ‘swish’ sound from the large wingspan of a bird and they spotted a group of Malabar Hornbills in the Timber woods of Ganeshgudi, Karnataka. She says, “The experience was larger than life, it made me feel humble in the vastness of its presence. When you see a migratory bird, you feel honoured as a guest that this migratory bird is greeting your vicinity.”

People are stressed due to work. They want to free their mind and the easiest way to do this is birdwatching.” — Dr Sathiya Selvam, Head of Wetlands & Flyways programme, BNHS

Like meditation, birdwatching is about being in the present and mindful, detaching oneself from worries and preoccupations.” — Sangeeta Parameswaran, HR (Operations Head), Blue Star, Mumbai

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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