Feeding birds is beneficial to the birds but is it just as good for us humans too? People have long reported the positive effect of nature, birds, and wildlife, in general, can have on mental health.

Can feeding birds really relieve stress though?

The Science On Feeding Birds & Mental Health

Numerous studies show nature, in general, can have a significant effect on the human brain. You aren’t imagining that sense of calm and wellbeing – when we view natural scenes which we find stimulating there is an increase in interactions of the mu (opioid) receptors in the brain’s visual cortex. These increased feelings of pleasure can be a diversion away from the feeling of stress and anxiety.

girl blowing a dandelion clock

When stress and anxiety are reduced, the heart rate returns to normal, blood pressure can be lowered and there will also be a reduction in the high levels of cortisone associated with stress.

Humans are genetically programmed to be drawn to nature, trees, and beautiful scenery and there is even evidence viewing nature can even reduce physical pain and discomfort. In a famous case study, one half of a group of patients recovering from gallbladder surgery and could see trees reported less pain than the group who couldn’t see trees.

Isn’t nature amazing?

There are also scientific studies showing being able to see birds can improve your wellbeing.

Conducted by the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland, a 2017 study found those living in areas where they could see or at least had regular access to birds, shrubs and trees are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress.

The academics first conducted surveys on the number of birds in the morning and afternoon in Milton Keynes, Bedford and Luton – the study showed that lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress were associated with the number of birds people saw in the afternoon.

Interest, the study, which included 270 of different ages, showed that the species of bird did seem to have any effect on the positive benefits, but the number of birds did.  More birds = happier people!

Study lead, Dr Daniel Cox, said:

“This study starts to unpick the role that some key components of nature play for our mental well-being. Birds around the home, and nature in general, show great promise in preventative health care, making cities healthier, happier places to live”.

More Birds Less Stress!

If more birds mean more happiness, then people may wonder how they can attract more birds to their garden.

a nuthatch eating bird food

A simple way to increase both the number and diversity of birds visiting your garden would be to leave out bird feed.

You can also make your garden more enticing by making it a safe environment, proving shelter and perching spots such as large shrubs and trees, and making a water source available.

To increase the chances of welcoming baby birds into your garden you could also try putting up a few nest boxes.

There are even options for those who live in flats or cities without much green space – birds do still live in these spaces and if you provide food you may be surprised at what turns up. Bird feeders can be hung on balconies, from windows or perhaps hung on trees in communal green spaces.

If you feed them, they will come!