Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Having once again heard the cheerful chirping of birds, it is worth stopping and listening. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) have shown that birdsong reduces feelings of anxiety and irrational thoughts. Their findings are published in a journal Scientific reports.

In the study, researchers examined how traffic noise and birdsong effects on mood, paranoia, and cognitive function in a randomized online experiment with 295 participants. These people heard six minutes of typical traffic or birdsong noise with varying amounts of different traffic or birdsong sounds. Before and after listening to the audio clips, participants filled out questionnaires that assessed their mental health and completed cognitive tests.

“Each person has certain psychological tendencies. Healthy people can also experience anxious thoughts or temporary paranoid perceptions. Questionnaires allow us to identify people’s tendencies without being diagnosed with depression, anxiety and paranoia, and to investigate the effect of bird sounds on these tendencies,” says first author Emil Stoebe, a postdoctoral fellow in Liz Meitner’s Environmental Neuroscience Group at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

The current study shows that listening to birdsong reduces anxiety and paranoia in healthy participants. In this experiment, birdsong had no effect on depressive states. Traffic noise, however, usually worsens depression, especially when the audio clip contains many different types of traffic sounds. The positive effects of birdsong on mood are already known, but as far as the authors know, this study is the first to show an effect on paranoid states. This was independent of whether the birdsongs came from two or more different bird species. The researchers also found that neither birdsong nor traffic noise affected cognitive performance.

According to the researchers, the explanation for these effects is as follows birds singing is a subtle sign of a pristine, distracting natural environment stress factors which could otherwise signal an acute threat. Taken together, the findings suggest interesting avenues for further research and applications, such as actively manipulating background noise in different situations or examining its effects on patients diagnosed with anxiety disorders or paranoia.

“Bird songs can also be used to prevent mental disorders. Listening to audio CDs would be a simple, readily available intervention. But if we were already able to show such effects in an online experiment performed by participants on a computer, we can assume that it is even stronger in the open air, in nature,” Stobbe says. He is a member of Lise Meitner’s Environmental Neuroscience Group at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, which studies the effects of the physical environment on humans.

“Recently, we were able to conduct a study that showed that a one-hour walk in nature reduces brain activity is related to stress,” adds Simone Kühn, head of the research group. “We cannot yet say which features of nature – smells, sounds, color or their combination – are responsible for this effect. The current study is an additional building block for elucidating this question,” Kuhn continues. What is clear is that nature is improving mental health and well-being.

How does nature nurture the brain?

Additional information:
E. Stobbe and others. Birdsong relieves anxiety and paranoia in healthy participants, Scientific reports (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-20841-0

Sonia Sudymak and others. As nature teaches: amygdala activity decreases as a result of an hour’s walk in nature, Molecular psychiatry (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41380-022-01720-6

Citation: Listen! Birdsong good for mental health (2022, October 13) Retrieved October 13, 2022, from

This document is subject to copyright. Except in good faith for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.