Listening to birdsong reduces anxiety and paranoia

October 14, 2022
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Listening to birdsong reduces anxiety and paranoia

Listening to birdsong reduces anxiety and paranoia

Surrounding yourself with the light twittering of birds can do you good – at least where your mental health is concerned. Birdsong has been shown to reduce anxiety and paranoia or irrational thoughts, according to researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) in Germany.

“Everyone has certain psychological dispositions; healthy people can also experience anxious thoughts or temporary paranoid perceptions,” Emil Stobbe, Predoctoral Fellow at the Lise Meitner Group for Environmental Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, revealed.

The researchers studied a group of about 300 participants, noting their mood, paranoia, and cognitive functioning in response to traffic noise and birdsong. The participants listened to sound clips of different traffic sounds or birdsongs, and filled out questionnaires that assessed their mental health, before and after listening to the sound clips. The participants also performed cognitive tests as required.

Results showed that listening to birdsong reduces anxiety and paranoia in healthy participants, but did not appear to have an influence on depressive states. This study is the first to reveal an effect on paranoid states, independent of whether the birdsong came from two or more different bird species.

Traffic noise, on the other hand, generally worsened depressive states, especially if the sound clip involved many different kinds of traffic sounds. The researchers also found that neither birdsong nor traffic noise influenced cognitive performance.

The researchers explain that birdsong is likely a subtle indication of an intact natural environment, detracting attention from stressors that could otherwise signal an acute threat.

The interesting results warrant 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.

“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,” said Stobbe.

Meanwhile, the research group’s head Simone Kühn, alludes to another study that showed how an hour walk in nature reduces brain activity associated with stress. “We cannot say yet which features of nature—smells, sounds, colour, or a combination thereof—are responsible for the effect. [But] what is clear is that nature improves mental health and well-being.”


Category: Education, Features

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