We all know that birds have a useful function in the ecosystem: they feast upon bugs and insects, devour pests that would otherwise destroy our beautiful flower beds, and even play a critical role in the effective functioning of our planet by giving us a ‘heads up’ when something is wrong with our environment.

As well as being useful, birds are also very beautiful. Many, many people get a great deal of pleasure from watching birds and listening to their songs and are even inspired by the symbol of freedom that birds represent. That’s why bird watching (or ‘birding’) is so popular.

However, did you know that bird watching has physical and mental health benefits? Some people have called birding ‘nature’s yoga’, implying that it’s a great past time if you want to centre yourself, slow your life down and simply enjoy being in the moment.

Here are a just a few of the physical and mental benefits to attracting birds to your garden.

1.    You’ll walk lots of miles and learn to tread softly

Unless you’ve attached a window feeder to your patio door, or placed a bird feeder elsewhere in your garden, you’ll need to lace up your walking boots. Birding requires walking many miles through beautiful scenery to search for your favourite birds, which means you’ll clock up plenty of steps and really improve your fitness. Like yoga-lovers, bird watchers get plenty of regular exercise and they also learn how to control their body. Birding requires participants to tread carefully rather than stomping through bushes and crashing along trails.

2.    You’ll learn to focus your attention on what’s important

Multitasking is often hailed as a good thing, but bird watching actually encourages a different (but just as important skill): focussing in on what’s in front of you. In order to be an effective bird watcher, you’ll need to get good at tuning out the background noise and distractions. You need to pay attention to rustling undergrowth or movement up in trees if you want to catch a glimpse of a particular bird.

3.    You’ll feel united with nature

When was the last time you paused to really appreciate the fact that you are a part of something much bigger than just your workplace, your family or your hobbies? Well, like yoga, birding prompts you to do just that. Both you and the birds you’re watching are part of an immensely large and intricate natural chain, and stripping it back to a simple revelation like that is great for your mental and physical health. A reduction in stress can help to lower your blood pressure, and it might help you to feel that your troubles are less overwhelming too.

4.    You’ll be strengthening your grey matter

We all know that it’s important to keep our brains active as we age so that we stay sharp and responsive. Bird watchers know how effective birding is for this purpose. You’ll need to have your wits about you if you want to figure out where a bird is located, single out their song and spot the differences between seemingly identical species.

5.    Like yoga, birding can be a great social activity

Of course, you can go bird watching alone to enjoy the peace and quiet, but you can also join birding groups and meet other people that share your interests. You might make new friends, and socialising like this can help to alleviate mental health concerns such as depression and loneliness.