Our worlds are so busy now … we spend more time gazing at flat screens than we do watching what’s going on around us as a way of taking mental breaks, which help provide a sense of balance and promote calm composure.
If you find your mood tends to swing to the low side, make it a habit of watching birds. A new study appearing in BioScience (“Doses of Neighborhood Nature: The Benefits for mental Health of Living with Nature,” Cox, et al.) showed that taking the time to watch birds will make individuals feel relaxed, which combats tension, anxiety and low mood.
It’s akin to “stopping to smell the roses,” meaning – taking purposeful moments to connect with the natural world is a step in promoting better emotional health. The authors of the study (performed in Australia) involved 270 people with a variety of characteristics – ages, ethnicities, incomes, environments, etc. Through surveys, the team found that people who were cooped up inside more than usual during the previous week noted that they felt a bit more blue and anxious than if they were out and about.
The researchers found that those participants who resided in neighborhoods that had more greenery and more birds in the afternoons reported lower levels of stress, depression and anxiety. And this study isn’t for the birds – it is predicated on several previous studies showing that watching avian life, and environments where birds are more abundant are good for psychological health; one study in 2013 concluded that listening to birds tweet and sing can contribute to accelerating stress recovery and restores attention.
Another natural factor that has been found to alleviate stress, low mood and tension, is being surrounded by greenery (tree canopies, bushes, etc.). One study that took place in a variety of neighborhoods situated in woods, suburbia and cities all in Wisconsin, showed that participants in places that had more greenery, reported fewer symptoms of stress, low mood and anxiety. The study, appearing in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, (“Green space keeps you from feeling blue,” Beyer, et al) involved 2,500 individuals from 229 disparate neighborhoods. When data were adjusted, the researchers found that across all types of society, those individuals who lived with less than 10 percent of tree canopy were more likely to feel symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. The authors gave a glaring comparison: “a poor person living on a logging road in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest was more likely to be happy than a wealthier person living on a treeless block in Milwaukee.”
Additionally, according to the study authors, the results of this research validates what’s called the “attention restoration theory,” which means that one can reduce mental fatigue and increase ability to concentrate when spending more time in nature.
We at Herbsea are very enthusiastic about spending time outdoors in any natural environment. Lakeside or oceanside, forest, mountains, desert, and farmers’ fields, taking deep breaths and exploring should be part of everyone’s routine. For your increased sense of well-being and healthy constitution, we recommend you enjoy your natural world.