TEXAS (February 21, 2023)—The sun no longer drifts below the horizon at 5 o’clock; birds have begun their annual trek back to the Northern Hemisphere – spring is approaching. For many, spring is a time for new routines, freshening up around your home and yard, and cleaning out closets. But what about your mind? Does your spring-cleaning checklist include checking in on your mental health? Celebrating its centennial year, Audubon Texas celebrates March as Mental Health Awareness month, offering community activities to benefit birds, people, and the places they thrive.
Four-in-ten adults (41%) are said to have experienced high levels of psychological distress since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center analysis. Although Americans faced mental health challenges prior to the pandemic, experts warned us about the mental health consequences of COVID-19 and physical distancing early in the pandemic. Despite its negative associations, physical distancing did encourage us to pursue new, safer hobbies, one of which was getting outside.
A rediscovered passion for nature led to increased birdwatching and an overall 20% increase in outdoor recreation across the United States. Dogwood Audubon Center in Cedar Hill, Texas will be hosting a Forest Therapy Walk on Saturday, March 11, offering views of beautiful spring -migrating birds and opportunities to increase awareness for mental health.
Birding offers many community benefits beyond a healthy pandemic hobby. An October 2022 study published in Scientific Reports found time-lasting improvements in mental wellbeing were associated with everyday birdlife encounters. And according BioScience, a positive association exists between bird abundances and a lower prevalence of depression, anxiety, and stress. Our increased birding has also increased sales in local, nature-based tourism. Wildlife watching in Texas contributes $1.3 billion to the state’s annual economy.
As you prepare for the new season and your next outdoor adventure, open your ears and your eyes to the birds around you, connect with a local Audubon Center or chapter for events in your area.