Seeing or hearing birds is good for well-being

Seeing or hearing birds is good for well-being

Listening to birds chirping or watching them flutter and fly is more than just entertainment. Being around birds provides emotional well-being benefits that can last up to eight hours, according to a new study.

The researchers used a phone app to collect information on how this specific nature exposure might be good for mental well-being.

“The motivation behind my research stems from my interest in exploring protective and detrimental environmental factors that may impact mental health,” lead author Ryan Hammoud, research assistant at King’s College London, told Treehugger. . “I hope a better understanding of this could be used to influence the planning and design of healthier cities.”

Much research has explored the impact of nature on emotional health. This new study focuses only on the exposure of birds.

“Most previous studies have looked at the benefits of nature as a whole,” Hammoud says. “We chose to focus on birdlife to try to understand what specific characteristics of nature benefit mental well-being. None of the previous studies had investigated this in real-time, real-world contexts.

Birds and mental well-being

For their experiments, the researchers used the Urban Mind app to track 1,292 people who completed nearly 27,000 assessments. The participants came mainly from the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States.

Three times a day, the app asked users if they could hear or see birds. They were asked to answer follow-up questions about their mental state at the time, so researchers could see if there was a link and how long it lasted.

Mental well-being was measured with questions about whether they felt confident, relaxed, happy, for example, or more negative feelings like feeling anxious, stressed or lonely.

The study collected data on people who have diagnosed mental health problems and those who do not. They found that bird activity is linked to improved emotional well-being in those who did not have mental health issues, as well as in those who were diagnosed with depression.

They found that the effects were still seen in the next assessment which was up to eight hours later.

“Raise the Spirits”

The researchers also found that the benefits were not associated with other environmental factors such as trees, plants, or waterways. It was all about the birds.

“Who hasn’t listened to the melodic intricacies of the dawn chorus early on a spring morning? A multi-sensory experience that seems to enrich everyday life, whatever our mood or our comings and goings,” Jo Gibbons, research partner and landscape architect, said in a statement.

“This exciting research shows how much the sight and sound of birdsong lifts spirits. It captures intriguing evidence that an environment rich in biodiversity is restorative in terms of mental well-being. That the sensual stimulation of birdsong, which is part of these daily “doses” of nature, is precious and long-lasting. »

The results were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Sustainable Benefits

Scientists say this is the first time research has shown the direct link between seeing or hearing birds and having a positive mood.

“Although we might intuitively think that the presence of birds improves our mental well-being, until now we had no supporting evidence,” says Hammoud. “I was surprised by the strength of the effect and the fact that the benefits are still evident after taking into account the presence of other natural features such as trees and plants.”

The researchers say the results are both interesting and important.

“This is the first study to demonstrate the lasting mental health benefits of encounters with birds in everyday life. Interestingly, these benefits are also evident in people diagnosed with depression, the most common mental illness. more prevalent around the world,” says Hammoud. “It underscores the importance of protecting environments that encourage and support birdlife, not only for biodiversity but also for our mental health.”

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