The cold days of winter can grow long even when the daylight is short, and many people feel a little down in the dumps as the season drags on. For those in need of a winter mood boost, look no further than your backyard bird feeder. Even casual bird watching can provide a variety of mental health and wellness benefits. Here are five ways bird watching can boost your mental and physical health.

1. Bird watching as meditation

Many people like bird watching at their backyard bird feeder because it’s something enjoyable to do without really doing anything at all. They can simply sit and relax and casually observe the birds that stop by. The peace and tranquility can feel like entering a meditative state.

Being able to turn off your brain and simply enjoy the moment like that is actually a way to improve your health and well-being. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, alleviate anxiety, reduce negative emotions and even boost creativity. If you want to find your Zen and improve your mental health, consider spending more time bird watching at your backyard feeder.

2. Recharge by unplugging

The average American now spends an estimated eight hours a day looking at screens and nearly two and a half hours of that on social media. Excessive screen time has been linked to sleep problems, obesity, neck and back issues, anxiety and more. Meanwhile, spending too much time on social media has been linked to depression, eating disorders and other mental health problems. So, unplugging for a while can have serious benefits for your mental and physical health.

Bird watching is an opportunity to do just that: put down the screens and enjoy being present in the moment. Giving your eyes and thumbs a break to spend more time with your local birds could just provide a welcome mood boost.

Yellow WarblerJHunter / iStock / Getty Images Plus

3. Fighting “Nature Deficit Disorder”

With modern technology and ever-expanding urban environments, many people — especially children — spend less time in nature than ever before. Experts suggest this could have possible negative consequences on a person’s mental and behavioral health. This concept is known as Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD). While it is not a formally recognized medical condition, there is some research supporting the idea that a lack of outdoor time can negatively affect a child's well-being.

Bird watching offers a partial remedy to nature deficit disorder as an accessible way for people of all ages to engage with the natural world. By actively birding, you can enjoy the rich experiences with nature that may ultimately yield big mental health benefits.

4. The health benefits of leisure

It turns out that having a good time can actually be good for you. Studies have shown that people engaging in leisure activities “have lower stress levels, better mood, a lower heart rate and more psychological engagement.” So, as long as you enjoy it, watching colorful songbirds at your backyard bird feeder can actually help improve your mental health.

CardinalJenn Tepp / iStock / Getty Images Plus

5. Short walks offer big benefits

Walking just 30 minutes each day can “increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance.” So, why not spend a half hour every day observing the local birds in your neighborhood? A few short walks that double as mini bird watching adventures can provide significant mental health benefits while also improving your physical well-being.

Want to thank your local birds for contributing to your health and well-being? Consider filling your backyard bird feeder with premium Lyric Supreme Wild Bird Mix or the popular Lyric Fruit and Nut High Energy Mix.