To be mindful in turbulent times, turn to an ancient form of entertainment

Photo by Daniel Seßler on Unsplash

With our constant barrage of information and “breaking news”, it’s pretty easy to feel overwhelmed. We are basically all living with a form of ADHD, with the primary hallmarks being information overload and inability to prioritize or process our thoughts and emotions as a result. We wind up turning to mindless internet surfing or binge watching “Tiger King” to cope.

Instead, I implore you to set aside your phone or computer, grab something to write on, step outside and spend 15 minutes on one of humanities’ oldest forms of entertainment (one that even predates books).

I am talking, of course, about bird watching… 

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

Listen closely, identify a single bird call, stare intently at the sky and the trees around you until you find the bird making the sound, then jot down notes and drawings of the bird that you can use later to identify it. One of the best cures for ADHD is to get curious about the mundane, to find novelty in the everyday. Bird watching will deepen your connection to your surroundings and will turn a simple walk outside into an exploration. This is the antidote to information overload and the 24 hour news cycle. 

Some of bird watchings most famous and ardent practitioners are Leonard Da Vinci, who once added to his to-do list, “Describe the tongue of a woodpecker”, and Teddy Roosevelt, who kept a list of all birds observed on the White House grounds during his presidency. They are both famed for their output and creativity, and both made contributions to the world that have a lasting impact to this day. So, if you think you don’t have time, consider how busy their schedules must have been.

Matching a bird to its call requires you to cultivate patience: to slow down and look deeply at what’s around you. I think this is something we could all use at this moment in history.