wildlife watching and our mental health

Hi everyone, 

I'm not sure if this is the best place to ask this question, but I've been looking into 'green therapy' and from personal experience, I really do think this is an overlooked but effective approach to easing the symptoms of certain anxiety disorders, including social/generalised anxiety and OCD. Does anybody else have any experience of this?

Like so many others, I've been having a rough time with anxiety recently and I've always found being outdoors extremely helpful in reducing symptoms. I love watching wildlife but my knowledge and experience is limited and I'd really like to get involved with a local wildlife-watching group when covid restrictions are lifted. I'm wondering if anybody knows of any wildlife watching groups in the Staffordshire/Derbyshire/Peak District areas or whether it might be worth considering setting something up next year. 

I know the local wildlife trusts and RSPB organise a number of meetups throughout the year but do actual wildlife-watching groups, with fairly regular meetups, exist? :) 

Thanks so much, Gareth

  • Hi Gareth welcome to the community from Sheffield.
    I think wildlife watching whether it is in your garden or local parks have helped a lot of people during the pandemic so you are not alone.
    Along with the groups you have mentioned you want to look for local birding groups, I know I have two near me that have regular walks when the local lockdown rules allow and once you've been on them you would then be able to arrange to get out with members as you want.

    My Flickr photos

  • Thanks Alan for taking the time to respond. That's great advice - I'll look into local birding groups and now that you mention it, I have come across one or two in my area previously, so that would be the best place to start.

    I was lucky enough to spot four seals whilst on the Yorkshire coast one evening last week. They were some way off but I had a small pair of binoculars and even managed to get a couple of photographs by combining the binoculars with my camera phone. That's what prompted me to write the post actually, because I spent a good hour watching those seals, and I found it to be a wonderful exercise in mindfulness and really quite relaxing!

    All the best, Gareth,
  • Hi-

    there are books and studies showing that being out in natural surroundings is good for mental health and well-being-
    There's a ( famous ?) book - Bird Therapy??

    Did you know that old fashioned drawing boards were green because it is relaxing on the eyes- unless that's just an urban myth ...


    For advice about Birding, Identification,field guides,  binoculars, scopes, tripods,  etc - put 'Birding Tips'   into the search box

  • AHA! The art of mindful birdwatching by Claire Thompson:


    For advice about Birding, Identification,field guides,  binoculars, scopes, tripods,  etc - put 'Birding Tips'   into the search box

  • There are RSPB Local Groups all over the country, many of those organise bus trips to distant reserves, evening talks, local wanders etc.  If nothing else, they're a good place to discover other keen wildlife watchers.  There's a list (and postcode search engine) on the main website. Most of the Wildlife Trusts do something similar, you can find your local one via their main website

    You'll often find simply visiting a reserve on a regular basis will hook you up with like-minded people.  We tend to be creatures of habit, so visiting on a regular (eg) Saturday morning, over time you'll get to know other locals keen to see what nature has to show us.  Most birders I know are certainly happy to point stuff out, suggest places to visit, what to see where and so on


    Find me on Flickr / All about your camera - The Getting off Auto Index

  • In reply to seymouraves:

    Thank you so much seymouraves, this book looks like an excellent guide to practicing mindfulness whilst out in nature and mindfulness itself is something I've been investigating recently as a remarkably effective way of managing stress and anxiety. I love the idea of mindful birdwatching and I will have to buy this book...thank you for drawing my attention to it.

    I didn't know that about old fashioned drawing boards but it sounds entirely plausible to me! - green is so relaxing.
  • In reply to Whistling Joe:

    Thanks so much Whistling Joe for your excellent suggestions and the links. I think I'll start by making regular visits to my local nature reserve, which as you suggest, sounds like a brilliant way of finding like-minding people.
  • These are challenging times for a great many people, though I fear that nature and the open countryside do still take very much a back seat when it comes to any form of therapy. Here I am surrounded by HS2 construction and lots of new housing estates, which makes me wonder if the government are really committed to the countryside and nature.

    The tide very very is slowly changing, and nowhere accelerating fast enough in my book.

    A keen outdoor person, former mountaineer, moorland walker and wild camper (with great respect for the outdoors; leave no trace) until a major accident a few years ago which required major lower leg reconstruction, so these days I'm dependant on local reserves to get my outdoor fix.

    During the recovery, I had psychological therapy, and it was very materialistic based!

    My psychologist was very interested in the book Bird Therapy, though she never really used much from the book for me. I only hope that has since changed, but I'll never know.

    Anyway, what I have to add is, we used to have a Natural History Society, which covered quite a vast array of subjects around nature and the countryside, while also encompassing some mankind history in their meetings. They used to hold fortnightly meetings during the winter but spring and summer, they went out to places either car sharing or hiring coaches. The talks during the winter months were also very interesting with some very knowlegeable.

    Sadly it closed a good few years ago due to fast depleting members.

    Obviously in current times, meeting in enclosed places and even outdoor trips are not an option, but there could be one near you, and might be worth a search.


    Flickr Peak Rambler

  • I’m in an RSPB Group in Newcastle Upon Tyne which in normal times has coach trips every month of the year on a Saturday, also two midweek local morning birdwatching walks which you make your own way to, but I’ve always managed to get a lift in one of the members cars from the Newcastle RSPB Group where we all share the fuel costs. Also my RSPB Group have an annual week long UK birdwatching holiday every year. Also monthly indoor talks in Newcastle from September-March. All of the outdoor events have sadly been suspended since the last coach trip in March of this year. Luckily the monthly talks with my RSPB Group since September have been broadcast live online via Zoom. We all join Zoom about 30 minutes before the talk. So we can all have an informal talk and chat before the talk starts which is very nice. There are quite a number of RSPB Groups in North East England, including a much smaller RSPB Group from the city of Durham in the county with the same name. Also there is at least one RSPB Group in the county of Cleveland as well.