Happy New Year! Are you making resolutions today? As you probably already know, research shows most resolutions are broken within the first month of the year. But I have good news – I’ve got a list of the top 10 most commonly broken new year’s resolutions, and when you get right down to it, taking up hobbies like birding and gardening can actually help you keep these resolutions in 2014!
Broken Resolutions #1 and 2: Lose Weight and Get Fit / Eat Healthier and Diet.
- Gardening is actually surprisingly good exercise. Weeding your garden can burn up to 300 calories an hour, while digging for an hour gets you up to 340 calories burned! (Get more calorie counts for gardening here.) And growing your own fresh veggies is the best way to encourage yourself to add more of them to your diet.
- Gardening not really your thing? Take a walk in the woods to look for birds, and you can burn nearly 240 calories an hour.
#3: Get Out of Debt and Save Money.
- In the last few years, many people have started their own vegetable gardens for exactly this purpose. It takes a little start-up money, but once you get going, you may be surprised just how much you’ll be able to harvest from your own veggie patch. Plus, if you’re home pulling weeds, you’re not out spending money!
- Birding can be a pretty inexpensive hobby, too, especially if you take advantage of great free websites like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds instead of buying pricey guidebooks. It doesn’t cost anything to take a walk in the woods or along the shore looking and listening for new sightings. Unable to go out? Watch the free Feeder and Nest cams instead!
# 4 and 5: Learn Something New & Volunteer.
- Gardening and birding are all about learning new things, and the internet is full of ways to help you out. Love hummingbirds? Take the Birds & Blooms Backyard Birder course to learn all about them. Want to attract more birds, or learn about the ones you see at your feeders? Try this tool from Project FeederWatch. Thinking about starting some plants for your garden from seed this year, but not sure how to begin? Our Community forums are full of discussions on that very topic right now – click here to read their advice and join the discussion.
- Volunteering is actually a great way to learn new things. Many years ago, when I wanted to learn more about butterfly gardening, I offered my time at a local butterfly garden. Now I actually work there! Join your local Audubon Society chapter and find out about their volunteer opportunities with local schools or parks. Contact your community garden and spend a few hours a week there. You can learn new things and give back all at the same time!
#6: Spend More Time with Family.
- Gardening and birding are both wonderful family activities. Kids who spend time learning how to grow their own food are more likely to make smarter choices in their own diets. Older folks who love gardening may not be able to do quite as much in their gardens as they used to, so carve out some time to help your parents or grandparents take care of their flower beds and veggie gardens.
- Teach children to love birds and nature, and they’ll be more likely to head outside instead of playing video games. Fellow blogger Noelle has a great list of tools for young beginner birders – check it out here. Encourage your kids to keep a daily journal of the birds at your feeder, or to memorize a new bird song each week. Birding is fun with older family members too – my parents and I usually spend some time on our weekly phone calls chatting about about our feeder visitors, and when I visit, we almost always go for walks to find more birds.
#7: Travel to New Places.
- Speaking of heading out to look for more birds, having a hobby like birding will encourage you to seek out new places to find these gorgeous creatures. When I plan trips to just about anywhere, one of the first things I do is check out eBird to see what’s been spotted there and what birding hotspots I might like to visit. At home, birding has encouraged me to visit more of our local parks and preserves to see what I can find there. And if you really love birds, there are plenty of places that specialize in offering trips around the world to look for new and rare sightings.
- Garden lovers often gear their own trips to places of natural beauty, or to visit botanical gardens. Check out this list of gardens around the U.S., and do a web search to find more in your area.
#8, 9 and 10: Quit Smoking / Drink Less / Be Less Stressed.
- Those who have quit or tried to quit smoking know that one of the most common tips for dealing with cravings is “Distract Yourself”. Why not make gardening or birding one of those activities you do instead? Instead of reaching for a cigarette, reach for your garden trowel. Instead of taking pack of cigarettes when you walk the dog, take your binoculars and look for new birds instead.
- Instead of pouring a drink to relax when you get home from work, head outside and pull some weeds or prune the roses instead. Are you a social drinker? Try finding new ways to spend time with old friends by introducing them to birding or gardening.
- Research study after study shows that gardening reduces stress. (See some of the facts here.) Other activities that get you moving and out in nature do too. Some research shows that just looking at pictures of nature in a quiet place can help to calm you during stressful times.
How do you use birding and gardening to help you keep resolutions like these? Tell us your success stories in the comments below!