The Balm of Nature

The Balm of Nature by Myrna Pearman

August 29, 2022 | Myrna Pearman, Chin Ridge Seeds (en-CA)

Myrna Pearman, Resident Naturalist & Backyard Bird Feeding Expert
Myrna Pearman, Resident Naturalist & Backyard Bird Feeding Expert

This article is part of our "Ask Myrna" Backyard Bird Feeding Series.

For folks who enjoy being outside and regularly find solace in the natural world, recent research that confirms the healing power of nature comes as no surprise. But it is reaffirming that empirical evidence now validates the intuitive understanding and long-held belief that nature is a balm for the human body and soul.

So important is nature to physical and mental wellbeing that even our medical system is recognizing its value, with the following health benefits being documented: improved memory, reduced depression, enhanced creativity, increased gratitude, stimulated sense of curiosity and wonder, and reduced feelings of isolation. A new program, PaRx, is being embraced by many licensed health care providers across Canada. Under this program, nature time (usually 2 hours per week) is actually prescribed.

Fortunately, getting “out in nature” does not have to entail driving to the mountains or trekking to the far-away wilderness. Nature can be found in our own backyards as well as in small parks and natural areas, even in large urban centers. Many towns and cities have parks and green spaces, and all municipalities in Canada are dotted with parks, lakes and rivers, and natural/protected areas. For those who have a yard, acreage or farm/ranch, nature is literally at one’s own back door.

Wildlife watching, especially bird watching, is a nature-based activity that also provides many benefits. A recent study, widely circulated in the press and on social media, determined that even listening to birds—especially the pleasant melodies of songbirds—has a restorative effect on the human psyche, supporting attention and alleviating stress.

The best way to maximize biodiversity, and thereby the benefits of nature, around your own home is by offering one or more habitat components. Habitat (space within which creatures can find food, water and shelter) in a typical backyard can be as simple as planting some bee/hummingbird-attracting flowers, hanging a bird feeder, erecting a birdhouse, and/or setting out a simple bird bath. These modest actions, especially setting out bird feeders, will often yield immediate results. What better way to enjoy and appreciate nature than to bring it to you!

As summer will soon be yielding to fall, now is a good time to encourage the resident birds to discover your backyard by setting out some bird feeding stations. After the waves of migrants have long departed for southern climes, these resident species – most of which are seed eaters – will set up their winter territories to include your yard and regale you with their activity and beauty throughout the long winter months ahead.

If you are interested in encouraging biodiversity and/or creating wildlife habitat in your yard, I recommend that you get a copy of my book “NatureScape Alberta: Creating and Caring for Wildlife Habitat at Home.” It is available from my website