By Haley Ellingson
When you’re looking to improve your emotional well-being, you might see a lot of sources telling you that being outside, staying active, and being mindful can all be beneficial. But what activities could help you do all of these simultaneously? One easy and inexpensive way is bird watching. Bird watching, also known as birding, is the act of observing birds in their natural habitat. It was pioneered by Edmund Selous, who wanted the study of birds to be through observation rather than shooting and collecting them. Birding itself is very accessible, you could even begin to do it while sitting in your house. But if you choose to adventure out, you get the added benefits of staying active and being outside.
A major benefit of birding is mindfulness. Mindfulness can be described as living in the moment and not using as much of your emotional energy on unimportant details or things that have happened or could. Being mindful can have benefits such as higher self-control, improved concentration, mental clarity, and being able to connect with others and yourself with kindness and compassion. Birding can help ground you in the moment, watching how the birds interact with their environment, how they appear, what sounds they are making, and even the difference between the birds. You just have to focus on that moment with the bird instead of other things that might be happening in your life. It’s an amazing opportunity to watch that bird’s life and observe how it interacts with its environment.
Birding can also help you stay active. It gives you a reason to go hiking on a trail or explore other areas where you are more likely to see birds. It can be hard to find motivation to go out and do things that require energy, but birding can give you a reason to be excited about it. Trying to find unique birds that you haven’t seen before can help inspire you to take more difficult paths, but the beauty of birding is that it doesn’t have to be that hard. If it fits you better, you could walk around your local park or even your house. Any amount of activity releases endorphins, which can help to improve your mood and reduce stress.
The search for birds can improve your focus. Birds aren’t always just sitting in the wide open for us to see. You might have to concentrate harder on spotting birds and following them around with your eyes. You can also challenge yourself to find different birds. Maybe one week you hope to see a blue jay. This challenge will make it more interesting and you will have to focus harder on spotting that bird.
To begin, all you have to do is go outside. It could be as simple as sitting outside of your house and watching the birds around there. If you prefer to stay close to home, you could set up bird feeders and provide them with water. Doing this will attract more birds, increasing your chances of seeing different birds. If you would rather go out into nature to look for birds, you could look up nature trails nearby or go to your local park. Some items that would be helpful to bring with you could include a book or app about local birds, a pair of binoculars, and, if you want, some water and snacks. One bird guide app is the Audubon Bird Guide App, which is free. Birding doesn’t require you to have expensive equipment and travel to faraway places to see interesting birds. It might seem a little overwhelming at first, but it’s okay to not recognize birds and to have trouble finding them.
Haley Ellingson is a student at Spring Grove High School. She is one of 17 area students participating in the Journal Writing Project, now in its 24th year.