Animals, Birds, Current Issues, Lotti, Wildlife

Bird watching and mindfulness

According to the mental health charity Mind, about 1 in 4 people people will experience a mental health problem each year. Across the world, there’s a growing effort to find better ways of providing support for people who struggle with their mental health. Mindfulness entered the general consciousness several years ago and has since only grown in popularity: even the NHS has a whole webpage dedicated to the act of mindfulness with tricks and tips to achieving this possibly enigmatic state of mind. Mindfulness-Based therapies have been found to be effective at treating depression, anxiety and stress.

Becoming mindful isn’t an overnight event. You can’t wake up one morning, look out the window at the growing light and say to yourself – this is it. Today I am mindful. Like any skill, it requires practice and perseverance. By actively engaging with mindful practices, we can start to become more relaxed in our day-to-day lives and be less prone to the effects of stress and anxiety. So how can we incorporate mindful practice into our everyday lives?

Why not look to the skies?

No – I’m not talking about parachuting.

Last year a group of scientists published research showing that watching birds had a positive impact on your mental health. Focusing on office workers, the researchers showed that people reported lower levels of depression, stress and anxiety when they could see more birds in the afternoon. To reap the benefits of local wildlife, participants didn’t even need to actively interact with the birds in their lives: simply watching the birds was enough to register an improvement in people’s mental health. In fact, lots of research shows people’s mental wellness can be improved by watching birds.

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

Emily Dickinson

How do we start? First, you need to set aside time to practice mindfulness – in this case, by watching birds. Trying to engage in mindful practice while you’re otherwise preoccupied isn’t likely to be very successful – this isn’t something you can do when driving the kids to school or staring out of the window at work. You don’t need hours and hours – just five minutes every day, or every other day, which you set aside purely for watching the birds in your garden.

You can be outside, with them, or if you can’t face the chill then a window is just as good. There is never a “must”, never “you have to”. You can’t watch birds in the wrong way. If on Monday you feel up to sitting in the garden then that’s great, but if on Wednesday you just want to curl up inside then that’s fine too.


Focus on beginning to notice the birds in your garden. Even if you live in the UK where the most exciting thing you’ll ever see in your garden is a woodpecker, you need to remember that this isn’t about seeing the “best” or rarest birds. This isn’t birdwatching how you might imagine it with a pair of heavy binoculars and a long list of birds which need to be meticulously ticked off. This is probably one of the most important things to remember: This is not a competition.

It’s not about categorising the birds in your garden – chances are you can already list the birds you see every day anyway. In my garden live a couple of robins, blackbirds, some pigeons. If you stand on my driveway and look out towards the Thames you’ll see at least three Red Kites, their pointy tails steering them as they battle the wind. If you wait for long enough, the birds will come to you. The hopping robins perched next to your trowel to look for worms, the blackbird watching you from the fence, the big fat pigeon who doesn’t care whether you’re there at all.

Next, you listen to their calls, to their tweeting. Even if there aren’t any birds in your garden right at that moment, what can you hear from far away? A pair of robins, perhaps, at opposite ends of a garden twittering at each other. An angry blackbird chirruping at a cat in your neighbour’s garden. Even a seagull who’s flown too far from the ocean. If you’re lucky to live somewhere with a high number of birds of prey, you may even be able to hear one of them screech across the sky. Try to really focus not just on the noises themselves, but how they rise and fall, their pitch, how far away the song is and if it’s getting closer or moving further away.

Now focus on what you can see. Focus on the birds’ wings, their eating, their beaks, their playing together. Focus on the young ones. Now the old ones. Look closer at the patterns on their wings. Even the most boring pigeon is beautiful if you look at him the right way. And I should know: I love pigeons.


Pick a bird, any bird. Focus on it. Follow its path around your garden, into the sky, until it disappears. Pick another one. And another. The point, of course, is not to observe the bird but rather to focus your mind. You’re aiming for what psychologists call “flow”: a sense of feeling at one with the world, of having such strong focus on a task that you’ve let go of your own feelings and worries without even really realising it.

Achieving a state of “flow” can also be described as “being in the zone” – Imagine trying to perfect a new physical skill like roller-skating or rock climbing, or maybe even doing something as simple as watching a movie in the cinema or the final episode of a season of your favourite TV show. You are so engaged, so engrossed, that the thoughts which can often plague us go unnoticed. There’s no room for negative thoughts when your mind is focused on keeping your balance, which hold to grab next or figuring out who’s just killed your favourite character. Finding yourself in a place of “flow” leaves you feeling more relaxed and content. By knowing how to enter a state of flow and making sure we regularly do, we can make this feeling of contentment a more prominent presence in our everyday lives. It’s virtually impossible to feel happy all the time, but we can all strive to feel content and secure more often.

By watching the birds in your garden, it’s possible to get in the zone and engage in mindful behaviour without even realising you’re doing it. By taking time out of our busy, hectic days to reconnect with nature we can feel more relaxed and at ease with the world around us. There’s endless research showing how interacting with wildlife and spending time outside is beneficial for both our mental and physical health, yet we’re all lingering inside more than ever before. Perhaps as spring rolls around again, it’s time we all ignore the typical British weather and spend a little more time in our gardens.

For more information on garden birds and how to attract (and keep!) birds in your garden, check out our other blog posts:

Jenny at PrimroseLotti works with the Primrose Product Loading team, creating product descriptions and newsletter headers.

When not writing, Lotti enjoys watching (and over-analyzing) indie movies with a pint from the local craft brewery or cosplaying at London Comic Con.

Lotti is learning to roller skate, with limited success.

See all of Lotti’s posts.

Animals, Birds, Megan, Wildlife

Buying bird food for the first time can be daunting with so many types available. We’ve put together an easy-to-use guide to ensure you know what bird food to buy for garden birds in terms of season and species.

Why Feed Garden Birds?

Providing food for garden birds can attract a variety of beautiful and colourful species to your garden that will be sure to fascinate adults and children alike. It also helps out birds by supplementing their diet. This is especially important in the colder winter months when natural food can be scarce.

Ready To Use Feeders & Kits

The easiest way to start feeding your garden birds is to go for a ready to use feeder or a bird care kit. These come ready assembled, with suitable bird food for the feeder supplied.

Bird Seed Mixes

garden birds - bird on feeder dish

A variety of bird seed mixes are available for ground feedersbird tables and hanging feeders. They are an important food supply for many birds such as blue titsrobins and greenfinches, depending on which mix you choose. It is best to buy high quality bird seed mix, that do not contain fillers such as lentils and rice. Only a small group of species can eat these dry, so investing in quality, such as brand Red Barn, will attract a wider range of birds to your garden.


Straight bird seeds are great sources of fat for many birds. They are a great choice for the more experienced bird feeders that know which species nestle in their garden. Straight food is also suitable if you want to venture into making your own bird feeders.


garden birds - peanuts

Peanuts are a great source of protein and unsaturated fat for birds. Leaving peanuts out for the birds will bring in a variety of new species to your garden including jays, house finches, chickadees and woodpeckers. Smaller birds like robins struggle to eat peanuts and prefer for them to be ground or grated up. Donut feeders are suitable for peanuts, or alternatively go for a squirrel-proof feeder as our furry friends also enjoy peanuts and may scare birds off.

Sunflower Seeds & Hearts

garden birds - sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds, both in and out of their shells, deserve one of the top spots for bird seed to feed garden birds. Many species are attracted to eating sunflower seeds making them a very versatile bird seed. Leaving out sunflower seeds will attract species such as nuthatches, cardinals and grosbeaks. Sunflower seed hearts are also a good choice if you’re looking for a no mess bird seed. Sunflower seeds are suitable for use in most garden bird seed feeders.

Nyjer Seeds

garden birds - bird on nyjer seed feeder

Nyjer seeds are an excellent energy source for garden birds and are favoured by finches. They are an oily seed as they are rich in oil content. Note that once the seeds have dried up garden birds won’t eat them. Ensure you buy the correct quantity that you will use to prevent waste. As nyjer seeds are so small it is a good idea to buy a feeder specifically designed to hold them.


garden birds: robin eating mealworm

Offering mealworms to your garden birds will attract a wide variety of wild bird species. They are a great source of protein for garden birds and attract insect-eating birds such as bluebirds, sparrows and wrens.

Suet Treats

Suet treats are packed full of fat and are an excellent food to provide for garden birds in the winter, but are also suitable for all year round feeding. Many contain essential energy and fats provided by ingredients such as lard, suet and nuts. Suet can come in pellets, in blocks, in coconut shells or formed into fat balls. Each is suitable for a different type of feeder. Pellets are suitable for use in feeders and blocks are great for placing on bird tables or in ground feeders. Fat balls are suitable for use in fat ball feeders and coconut shell feeders come ready to hang up. Be sure to remove the mesh bag that fat balls come in before putting them out in your garden for birds to feast on.

Overall, feeding garden birds can be a really rewarding experience. With so many types of food available, you’ll never know what exotic species could be flying into your garden for a treat or two.

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.