EXETER, United Kingdom — There are numerous studies touting the physical benefits of a daily walk outside, but a new study finds enjoying a constitutional is rewarding for your brain, too — especially for those living in areas surrounded by foliage.
Researchers in the UK say that doses of nature, such as seeing birds and plants, can provide significant mental health benefits. The findings were established by a team of researchers from the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland.
“This study starts to unpick the role that some key components of nature play for our mental well-being,” says Dr. Daniel Cox, the lead author of the study, in a university release.
The research suggests that the simple act of observing nature can lower the levels of depression, anxiety, and stress of an individual. Dr. Cox explains that “birds around the home, and nature in general, show great promise in preventative health care, making cities healthier happier places to live.”
The study focused on the mental health of more than 270 participants. The group varied in age, income, and ethnicity. Those who were surveyed were periodically asked about the amount of depression, anxiety, and stress that they were experiencing.
The researchers also observed the birds found in various communities and noted the quantities of birds during both the mornings and the afternoons. They also paid mind to the various types of birds observed, which included common birds such as robins, blackbirds, and blue tits.
Cox and team found that it didn’t matter what types of birds were visible by participants, but how many they could see from their window or within their neighborhood. A more positive state of mental health was linked with areas containing higher concentrations of the birds.
Controlled variations included household income, neighborhood deprivation, age, and other socio-demographic differences. The researchers also noted that the quantities of birds were wide-ranging throughout different times of the day.
The work, which was part of a project called Fragments, Functions, Flows and Ecosystem Services, was published in the journal of BioScience and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.