Laura Koniver, MD firstname.lastname@example.org via aweber.com
Posted June 1st, 2021
More evidence that Mother Nature can boost your happiness like nothing else can… a new study suggests that bird diversity is as important to life satisfaction as an income is.
This study, published in Ecological Economics on Nov 2020, found that not only is happiness correlated with local bird diversity, but a 10% boost in bird diversity actually increases happiness to a similar magnitude as a 10% boost in income does!
We’ve known for a while that animals improve our mood, health, and even boost longevity (I’ve blogged about how pets can do all of this and more for you right here) and that plants do much the same… decreasing depression rates, anxiety rates, and dramatically reducing stress.
But even knowing all of that, I still think if you ask most people if they would rather see a couple extra birds today or earn a slightly higher paycheck, most would assume that money would provide more satisfaction.
This study suggests we might actually be just as happy — perhaps even happier — if we increase our exposure to birds.
Analyzing data from over 26,000 adults across 26 different countries, researchers evaluated biological diversity, socio-economic data and life satisfaction surveys to examine what makes the biggest impact on our long term happiness.
It turns out, more than plants, more than large fauna, more than insect or tree diversity, bird diversity has the biggest impact on happiness… comparable in magnitude to that of income.
So today’s tip is — stop and look for birds.
Or, even easier, just stop and listen. We can often hear birds even when we can’t see them.
Living in an urban area?
There are still birds. Listen for them in early morning — sunrise is the best time to hear birds — or listen in the late afternoon hours.
Want to increase the amount of birds you see and hear?
Hang a bird feeder in a window, put some potted plants, a birdbath or a birdhouse on a porch, balcony or doorstep — even without a yard, you absolutely can attract more birds to you, even in urban settings. For inspiration, check out this blog post on Bryony Angells’s blog — it’s so adorable — her hummingbird feeders and more hung up on a 10th story balcony that get’s plenty of attention from local birds!
Want to give your body a double shoot of happiness and a health boost?
Combine grounding and birding (simply touch a leaf or a tree or a flower or a rock or a balde of grass and you will be grounded while you listen to the lovely birdsong) and you will be directly supporting your body’s function while simultaneously boosting your happiness.
Crave to hear more of nature’s natural sounds?
Consider a weekend away. If you want to plan a trip around where you’ll see the most birds, or even one particular bird you’d like to see, you may enjoy birding apps like Birdseye, that give you up to date information on where to find birds, and will tell you what birds are actually around you, no matter where you are! Grab some binoculars, consider getting up a little earlier than you normally would (sunrise is often the best time to listen to birds!) and have fun.
There is great evidence to suggest that even one weekend in nature can boost your long term health. A study published in Biomedical and Environmental Sciences in 2012 showed that even a brief intervention of one single weekend spent in nature had significant health benefits — reducing stress, reducing inflammation, and even boosting the body’s immune response, compared to staying in an urban environment for the weekend.
After only a two day immersion in nature, study participants had measurably boosted immunity markers in the blood, lowered blood inflammatory markers, lower cortisol levels, boosted natural killer cells, and improvement of several other markers of immunity and inflammation.
But here is the best part: not only was this health boost significant immediately, but it persisted for an entire month after just that one single weekend in nature!
So one weekend in nature sustained an improvement in health for weeks, well after the subjects returned to their urban living. The researchers even suggest that routine visits in nature may provide long term anti-cancer benefits, because the subjects who spent a weekend in nature had boosted T Cell and Natural Killer cell function (which produce anti-cancer proteins) that persisted for weeks.
They encourage time spent in nature as a healthy part of a cancer prevention plan, and I agree… if you can’t get outside in nature daily, these studies suggest that planning one weekend a month can still make a huge difference in not only your current health, but protecting your future health as well. If you can strive to take on weekend a month as a break from your daily grind in order to support your long term health, you can reap the benefits of weeks of boosted health, even if you can’t live in nature.
And as today’s study suggests, you might just find that giving yourself a little bit of time to enjoy the singing of birds on these weekend breaks gives you more life satisfaction than your paycheck does.