A growing body of research over many years has shown that time spent in the natural world benefits our health. Recent studies have niched down further to propose that getting close to nature, in particular by listening to birdsong, helps improve our mental and emotional health, happiness, and wellbeing.
Seeing or hearing birds is associated with an improvement in mental well-being that can last up to eight hours, according to new research from King’s College London suggesting the potential beneficial role of birdlife in helping those with mental health conditions.
Lead author Ryan Hammoud, Research Assistant at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, said, “There is growing evidence on the mental health benefits of being around nature and we intuitively think that the presence of birdsong and birds would help lift our mood. We have for the first time shown the direct link between seeing or hearing birds, and a positive mood. We hope this evidence can demonstrate the importance of protecting and providing environments to encourage birds, not only for biodiversity but for our mental health.”
Research from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf have shown that birdsong reduces anxiety and irrational thoughts.
Scientists at the University of Surrey have been studying the “restorative benefits of birdsong”, testing whether it really does improve our mood. They discovered that, of all the natural sounds, bird songs and calls were those most often cited as helping people recover from stress, allowing them to restore, and refocus their attention.
Researchers from the University of Exeter found a link between the number of birds people can see from their windows and how positive they felt.
German researchers found that the happiest Europeans were those living in places with the greatest levels of bird diversity.
In a 2020 survey conducted by the Natural History Museum, showed that 73% of people surveyed reported hearing louder birdsong during the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK as we all became more aware of our natural surroundings.
In other words, birdsong is good for us but however much we think the birds are singing to delight us, this is of course a biological process. Birds ‘sing’ to mark and defend their space. What we hear is the males of each species saying “Keep out!” to every other male in the vicinity, and “Come in!” to every female. Birdsong may sound beautifully restorative to us, but for the birds it is all about the race to reproduce.
Nevertheless, taking advantage of the sound frequencies of our avian friends is an aural tonic that can considerably boost wellbeing, provoke relaxation, and help us restart mentally. Next time you are in the garden, or out for a walk, stop and focus on the song of the birds to boost your winter wellness.
Feed the Birds
Birds need a little more help at this time of year when food sources become more scarce.
- Attract birds to your greenspace by providing lots of foliage shelter which makes them feel safe, then provide a variety of feeding options to suit different species.
- Position hanging feeders or feeding tables away from trees or fences which cats could use as a springboard.
- Do buy bird seed from a reputable source so that it is fresh and in good condition. Cheaper products are often bulked out with less nutritious food.
- Peanuts, fat balls, and suet will provide lots of energy but do remember to remove plastic netting from fat balls so as they can trap beaks and feet.
- Always put peanuts into a hanger with a metal mesh so birds only peck small chunks to avoid the risk of choking.
- Many birds like bits of fruit so offer small chunks of pear or apple.