This specific nature activity can improve students’ mental health

Birds fly over the rainbow — so why can’t you watch your worries fly away, too?

A new study from North Carolina State University, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, found that bird-watching can help college students improve their mental health. 

Studies have shown that spending time in nature can boost overall well-being, but researchers found that bird-watching yielded especially promising results. 

Researchers measured the well-being of students in three different groups. Shutterstock

“There has been a lot of research about well-being coming out through the pandemic that suggests adolescents and college-aged kids are struggling the most,” M. Nils Peterson, corresponding author of the study and a professor of forestry and environmental resources at North Carolina State University, said in a press release. 

“Especially when you think about students and grad students, it seems like those are groups that are struggling in terms of access to nature and getting those benefits,” Peterson added. 

The researchers split the study participants into three different groups. One group was a control group, another group was assigned five nature walks and a third group was tasked with five 30-minute bird-watching sessions. The researchers then surveyed each person in the study about their mental state based on the World Health Organization’s Five Well-Being Index. The index has them rate their well-being on a scale of zero to 5, with zero being the worst and 5 being the best.

All three groups saw an improvement in their well-being scores, but the bird-watching group started the lowest and ended at the highest. 

Looking at birds can improve your mental health, according to a study. Joanrae P/ –

The scientists then used another questionnaire, called STOP-D, used to measure distress. The participants in the nature-walking and bird-watching group performed better than those in the control group. This study was different than previous studies in that it compared people in nature-walking and bird-watching groups to people in a control group instead of participants exposed to something more distressing like traffic noise. 

“One of the studies that we reviewed in our paper compared people who listen to birds to people who listened to the sounds of traffic, and that’s not really a neutral comparison,” Peterson said. 

Bird-watching improved well-being more than walking in nature. Chase Dââ¬â¢Animulls –

“We had a neutral control where we just left people alone and compared that to something positive,” he added. 

The study found that bird-watching improved participants’ mental health and more research could be done to find out why.

“Bird-watching is among the most ubiquitous ways that human beings interact with wildlife globally, and college campuses provide a pocket where there’s access to that activity even in more urban settings,” Peterson said.