A new study has revealed that birdsong can boost mental health and have a positive effect on a person’s mood and cognition.
The study – of nearly 300 subjects – shows that while harsh sounds like traffic noise can worsen our mood, birdsong can relieve anxiety and paranoid thoughts.
Newsflash obtained a statement from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in which they said (in English): “When you next hear cheerful twittering of birds, you should stop and listen.”
They went on: “Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the Universitaetsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) have shown that birdsong reduces anxiety and irrational thoughts.”
Researchers examined how traffic noise and birdsong affect mood, paranoia, and cognitive functioning by carrying out a randomised online experiment with 295 participants.
The institute explained: “These heard six minutes of either typical traffic noise or birdsong with varying numbers of different traffic sounds or birdsongs.
“Before and after hearing the sound clips, the participants filled in questionnaires assessing their mental health and performed cognitive tests.”
The study’s first author, Emil Stobbe, a Predoctoral Fellow at the Lise Meitner Group for Environmental Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, said: “Everyone has certain psychological dispositions.
“Healthy people can also experience anxious thoughts or temporary paranoid perceptions. The questionnaires enable us to identify people’s tendencies without their having a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, and paranoia and to investigate the effect of the sounds of birds or traffic on these tendencies.”
The study suggests that listening to birdsong can reduce anxiety and paranoia in healthy people, while it did not appear to have an influence on depressive states in the experiment.
The statement added: “Traffic noise, however, generally worsened depressive states, especially if the audio clip involved many different kinds of traffic sounds.
“The positive influence of birdsong on mood is already known, but to the best of the authors‘ knowledge, this study is the first to reveal an effect on paranoid states. This was independent of whether the birdsong came from two or more different bird species.
“The researchers also found that neither birdsong nor traffic noise influenced cognitive performance.”
The study explained: “Birdsong is a subtle indication of an intact natural environment, detracting attention from stressors that could otherwise signal an acute threat.
“Taken together, the results suggest interesting avenues for further research and applications, such as the active manipulation of background noise in different situations or the examination of its influence on patients with diagnosed anxiety disorders or paranoia.”
Stobbe said: “Birdsong could also be applied to prevent mental disorders. Listening to an audio CD would be a simple, easily accessible intervention. But if we could already show such effects in an online experiment performed by participants on a computer, we can assume that these are even stronger outdoors in nature.”
Simone Kuehn, head of the research group, said: “We were recently able to perform a study showing that a one-hour walk in nature reduces brain activity associated with stress.
“We cannot say yet which features of nature – smells, sounds, color, or a combination thereof – are responsible for the effect. The present study provides a further building block to clarify this issue.”
The study’s findings were published in the academic journal Scientific Reports on Thursday, 13th October under the title ‘Birdsongs alleviate anxiety and paranoia in healthy participants’. The study was authored by Emil Stobbe, Josefine Sundermann, Leonie Ascone and Simone Kuehn.
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