We know from previous studies that spending time in nature benefits our mental health by giving our brains a chance to relax and de-stress. Now, a new study has taken it a step further, demonstrating that certain characteristics of outdoor spaces—specifically an abundance of birds and lots of greenery—may help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
“This study starts to unpick the role that some key components of nature play for our mental well-being,” said study author Dr. Daniel Cox with the University of Exeter in England. “Birds around the home, and nature in general, show great promise in preventative health care, making cities healthier, happier places to live.”
For the study, Cox and his fellow researchers followed nearly 300 participants living in different neighborhoods, making a note of their natural surroundings as well as how much time they spent outside. What they found was that being able to see more birds during the day, as well as living close to lots of trees and shrubs, was linked to significant mental health benefits.
Frequent bird watching was associated with notably lower levels of stress and anxiety, which supports earlier research from the University of Exeter linking the activity to improvements in mood and mental health. And you don’t have to be a professional to reap the benefits—positive results were seen regardless of whether or not people could identify which types of birds they were seeing.