Looking for a way to pass the time and get closer to nature? Bird-watching, or birding as it’s sometimes called by enthusiasts, could fill that niche, but those aren’t the only two goals it can help you accomplish. In fact, this activity can be an extraordinarily healthy hobby that’s easy get into, no matter your physical circumstances, making it great for seniors! According to the 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, there are around 17 million people who watch birds out in the wild, and 45 percent of them are age 55 or older!
While items like a bird book or binoculars can be helpful out in the field, the bird-watcher starter kit begins and ends with your eyes and ears. In a way, the low entry-level requirement and inexpensiveness of bird-watching are perks themselves, but the benefits of bird-watching go much beyond this. Bird-watching can keep your mind active, keep you happy, and even help you exercise a little!
Arguably the way that birding can be the most beneficial to us as a hobby is in the way it can help us relax. Bird-watching can promote mindfulness — a sense of being in the moment. In order to spot the birds, you have to be diligently paying attention or you could miss something. If you’re noisy and jumping around, you’ll scare away your subjects. To be successful, you’ll find yourself listening for birdsong or lightly flapping wings. You may persistently try to spot a flash of brightly colored feathers in the bushes. This focus can put us into something of a meditative state, which has its own mental health benefits.
Bird-watching can promote mindfulness — a sense of being in the moment.
Many bird-watchers find the hobby is a quiet and welcome escape from the “go, go, go” of the modern world. Instead of surfing TV channels or the internet, you’re soaking in nature. Think about it. If you’re on your phone, you can’t be watching for birds. There’s also evidence that simply seeing birds can have a therapeutic effect. One study from the University of Exeter found a link between the number of birds its subjects saw in a day and lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. This could be part of Mother Nature’s well-established stress-relief effect, which can even be observed from close to your own home!
It can be difficult to fight the aging process. As time marches on, our minds and bodies get older. There are ways you can slow the effects of aging, though, especially those on your mind. For example, birding is an excellent way to stay mentally sharp. Our brains work in a very “use-it-or-lose-it” manner, and bird-watching absolutely uses your brain. That meditative focus we discussed earlier? That’s testing and stimulating your senses, activating different regions of your brain.
Our brains work in a very “use-it-or-lose-it” manner, and bird-watching absolutely uses your brain.
At the same time, birding is a form of active learning, which can not only sustain our brain function as we age, but also improve it. What new skill are you learning when you bird-watch? Well, you’re not just passively observing when you go birding. Instead you’re watching, interpreting, and classifying the birds you see. In other words, you’re learning how to identify birds based on their look and sound.
For some, birding at home isn’t enough. To see a wider variety of birds, you may need to find a location that’s more wooded than where you live. In these cases, birding can become an excellent source of exercise. Hiking takes the low-impact workout of walking, boosts it with the occasional patch of steep, or more difficult terrain, and adds in a dash of the therapeutic benefits of nature. If you ever get tired, you have a built-in reason to stop and rest — to sit and spot some birds. If you’ve ever needed a reason to escape and exercise without it ever feeling like exercise, birding may be a great fit for you.
Some people may not be able to get out and hike to spot birds. They might live too far from woods, or they might be homebound. Others may not be fit enough to hike through the woods to go bird-watching. Regardless of the reason, this could impose a serious obstacle to birding — that is, if it weren’t incredibly easy to set up bird-watching wherever you are. In many cases, you can even bring the birds to you.
How? Setting up a bird feeder in your backyard is a great way to attract birds. You can even specialize the food and type of bird feeder to attract certain types of birds. In addition, you can set up a bird bath to create something of a birding station.
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Bird watching is an excellent stress-relieving hobby that’s open to anyone, regardless of your physical condition or nature know-how. Whether you’re watching from your kitchen window or hiking to the tallest cliffs, there are birds ready to be spotted. All that’s left is to grab your binoculars and a bird identification book and get to bird-watching!