Mindful Birdwatching

New research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health shows that people were able to enjoy birdwatching safely during the global pandemic.

Almost one in five Americans watch birds and about one and three birdwatchers go on such trips outside the home. Birding was still possible during the pandemic due to being an outdoor activity that could continue with social distancing.

Researchers found that while people were less social in their birdwatching and avoided crowds, they were still able to enjoy birdwatching alone or with their partner or spouse. During the pandemic, birdwatchers stayed more local and traveled to birding hotspots closer to home. Yard-birding also became more popular as people were able to watch birds at home feeders or from their windows, balcony, or rooftops.

Here are some ways you can enjoy birdwatching as a restorative and mindful experience.

1. Birdwatching can be a practice of mindful observation.

Birdwatching has many parts to it, you can search for birds from a stationary place or while walking or listening to bird song and trying to find them. Looking for birds requires you to be quiet and highly attuned to the noises and visual areas around you, which can be a form of focused awareness, mindfulness. When you actually find a bird to watch, the experience focuses your attention and senses on observing and listening to the bird with a sense of curiosity and joy of seeing it in its natural environment.

2. Birdwatching cultivates a sense of peaceful respect for the environment and nature.

Birdwatching highlights the connection between humans and nature and offers a deep sense of appreciation of the natural world around us and our relationship to it. When you approach birdwatching with a sense of gratitude and curiosity, this trains your mind in a positive way. The experience can also nurture a sense of your responsibility in conserving and respecting nature around you.

3. Let go of specific outcomes of the birdwatching experience.

While keeping bird checklists can be fun, you can also approach birdwatching with an open mind that is not bound to any outcome. Birdwatching highlights the element that we are not in control of things around us, birds are free to choose when they appear and when they go. Being able to enjoy the birds without an internal critical voice cultivates a non-judging awareness of the mind.

4. Embrace the fleeting nature of birdwatching.

The moments of finding a bird can be exciting but also fleeting since birds move quickly and don't stay for long in one area. This experience cultivates an awareness of impermanence as part of our human experience.

5. A beginner's mind and an open mind can offer a sense of joy and curiosity for all birds.

What can you observe about this activity that offers a sense of curiosity and appreciation for the birds that you do find? Certain birds may be more common in your area, and they may even seem invisible to you when you birdwatch.

Are you able to reframe your mindset and be curious about the common birds as well? This gives you the opportunity to observe things that you may not have seen before. This act is one of non-judgmental awareness and cognitive flexibility, both important parts of any mindfulness practice. Birdwatching is a healthy activity in nature that promotes our psychological and physical health as a mindfulness practice. There are many local birding groups on Facebook and social media as well as apps that can help you identify birds and birdsong.

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