Birds use chirps, trills, and warbles to attract mates, warn others of predators, and defend their territory. But every time they sing, they indicate that all is right with the world. And when we feel that reassurance, something deep within us feels deeply reassured.
This effect is so strong that spending time listening to birds can ease depression, reduce feelings of worry, help you stay in the present, and better connect with those around you. Here’s what the research says:
Birdsong greatly relieves depression and anxiety.
Birdwatchers have been talking about the health benefits of birdsong for years, but science is just starting to catch up.
A study conducted at Kings College London and published in the journal Nature found that people who saw or heard birds during the day experienced less depression, anxiety and paranoia. These benefits were long-lasting, as research participants reported feeling better, even hours later.
Interestingly, scientists found that listening to birdsong positively affected healthy people as well as those with depression. This finding suggests that time spent in the wild listening to birds could provide an alternative treatment for depression, a disorder that is twice as likely to affect women as men.
I once had a patient who struggled with severe depression, says Ketan Parmar, MD, a psychiatrist, psychologist, and contributing author to ClinicSpots. Encouraging them to listen to birdsong and spend time outdoors has played a significant role in their recovery. They described the experience as a lifeline, gradually rekindling their joie de vivre.
Birdsong eases worries by bringing you back to the present.
There is also evidence that birdsong helps reduce feelings of worry and stress. Natural sounds, such as birdsong, help listeners focus on the present, providing a sense of calm and peace.
When researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development assessed how two common environmental sounds, traffic and birdsong, influenced mood, worry and thinking, they found that no matter how many birds were in a recording , participants experienced a reduction in worry and anxiety after listening. , while traffic noises had the opposite effect.
This comes as no surprise to mindfulness coach Joy Rains, author of Meditation Illuminated (Buy from Amazon, $15). Shifting my attention from my busy mind to the sounds of birdsong is a practice I’ve come to appreciate, she says. When listening to the thoughts in my busy mind, it’s easy to become stressed or worried. But when I shift my attention to the birds, I don’t have to do anything. It is such a meditative, relaxing and positive practice.
Birdsong helps you reconnect with others.
A 2020 report released by Harvard University researchers found that 31 percent of Americans reported feelings of severe loneliness. A surprising way to sidestep these feelings of isolation? Listening to birds singing.
This is related to the idea of biophilia, or a feeling of connectedness with other living beings, says Carolina Estevez, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist at Infinite Recovery. Additionally, the presence of other people enjoying the same activity in nature (such as listening to birdsong) can increase feelings of connectedness which can further support positive mental health.
Luis Huber, small business owner and nature enthusiast, uses birding to build stronger bonds with loved ones.
My family and I have made it a tradition to go on rejuvenating walks every weekend, weather permitting, says Huber. At first, my husband and kids would occasionally grumble, but over time they’ve learned to embrace the therapeutic nature of these walks.
Beyond the sheer beauty of these experiences, the profound impact on our mental health lies in the harmonious connection we share as a family.
Where to listen to birds singing
Are you wondering how to use these benefits to your advantage? There are many places to listen to birds, whether you live in the city or in the countryside.
If you live near lots of trees or a large field, you may be able to hear birdsong by opening the windows. If this is not an option, you can visit:
- Local parks
- Botanical Gardens
- State or national parks
- Natural reserves
- Natural environments, such as mountains, beaches or forests
If you have limited mobility or no transportation, try listening to birdsong from the comfort of your home. There are various websites and apps with libraries of bird song recordings, including:
Consider downloading the Merlin app if you want to turn birdwatching into a new hobby. Developed by Cornell University scientists, it uses deep learning technology to identify birds from recordings and photos.
Birdsong can lift your mood and ease your worries, but only if you take the time to listen. Open the windows, walk around your neighborhood, or visit a local nature preserve. All you need is some time and your ears.
The calming effects of nature, and birdsong in particular, play a vital role in maintaining positive mental health, says Dr. Parmar. Do not wait. Go out and enjoy!
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