Why feeding the birds is part of a recipe for physical and mental health

January 21, 2022 | Kelly Barany, Chin Ridge Seeds (en-CA)

If you are like me, you have been battling with a bit of depression recently.

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic with its stress, anxiety and isolation challenges, combined with the colder shorter days of a Canadian winter can weigh a bit heavy on one’s soul at times.

In fact, many Canadians and Americans are feeling blue these days. This article from Very Well Health explains some of the mental challenges related to the pandemic. The Pandemic Raised Mental Health Awareness. Will It Last? (verywellhealth.com)

In addition, to the mental challenges, many people have found that their fitness has suffered as gyms and sports groups have been shut down at times during the pandemic. Less physical activity has led to weight gain and the side effects that go with inactivity and excess weight.

So what's society's solution to all these challenges? It seems quite easy to get a prescription for anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications or blood pressure medication or whatever else these days. However, many of these medications have their own set of side effects and risks.

A Natural Remedy for Wellness

I stumbled upon a new program the other day called PaRx, which is an initiative of the BC Parks Foundation. The website says that the initiative is "driven by health-care professionals who want to improve their patients’ health by connecting them to nature. Featuring practical resources like quick tips and patient handouts, its goal is to make prescribing time in nature simple, fun and effective".

The initiative is interesting in concept, because it recognizes the physical and mental benefits of just being out in nature and interacting with nature. The initiative director is Dr. Melissa Lem, a Vancouver family physician who also works in rural and northern communities within Canada.

The website documents the health benefits to adults and children on being involved in nature on their page "Why Nature" and suggests how health care providers can "prescribe" time in nature to their patients as a way of improving their health.

How bird watching and feeding fits into a natural remedy for wellness

chickadee at feeder

It is nice to see health care professionals starting to recognize the benefits of nature in people's lives and I believe that bird watching and feeding the birds in your backyard is another way to interact with and spend time with nature.

I am not the only person suggesting this - others also are saying the same. This article at healthfitnessrevolution.com Top 10 Health Benefits of Bird Watching during COVID-19 (healthfitnessrevolution.com) talks about the benefits of hiking and birdwatching.

In this article at birdeyebirding.com : How Bird Watching Could Be Incredibly Beneficial for Your Mental Health | BirdsEye Nature Apps (birdseyebirding.com), the author mentions research studies that have concluded that people living in environments with "more birds, shrubs and trees" are much less likely to feel depressed, anxious and stressed.

I have given this a bit of thought and I think that the act of backyard bird feeding itself contributes to a connection to nature in the following ways.

  • Every time you fill the feeder, you will get fresh air, sunshine and a bit of exercise.
  • Every time you see birds at the feeder, you can get some joy out of identifying the birds at your feeder and knowing you have added to their well being and health.
  • By studying birds, you can marvel and awe at their many natural adaptions to survive in the wild and their ability to migrate long distances.
  • You can enjoy the entertainment value of watching the birds interact with other.
  • Finally, when you see other creatures in this world going about their daily lives, you are less likely to feel isolated and alone.

Starting a back yard feeding program is a wonderful way to participate in nature and can be part of the "recipe" for mental and physical wellness.

What do you need to get started in a backyard feeding program? Here is my list of essentials below:

  • A simple feeder - my suggestion would be a simple tube feeder or a hopper feeder.
  • A bag of birdseed - I would start with our Mother Nature's medium sunflower chips (no mess, high nutritional value, loved by almost all birds)
  • A suet feeder and a good quality suet like Pine Tree Farms suet.
  • A guide to backyard bird feeding - I like Myrna Pearman's books
  • Our Mother Nature's feeding system guide which talks about how to set up your yard to maximize the variety of birds in your yard (Join our email list and we will send you this guide).

And that's it, a simple way to start in the hobby. You will invest a bit of money to get started, but think of the dollars you will save on prescriptions and counselling :). Enjoy!