Jul 31 2021

Destressing in nature: Part 3

Photograph of robin singing
Can you hear the birds?

The power of birdsong for de-stressing is an exciting area of growing evidence. A study of 300 people by the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland, found mental health improved for those in the home counties who had more birds around them. One of the reasons put forward is hearing birds sing is reassuring and helps us feel safe – when the birds stopped in days gone by it was recognised as a signal to worry, that something was wrong. Birdsong is also nature’s alarm clock, with the dawn chorus signalling the start of the day, so it stimulates us cognitively.

An experiment at a primary school in Liverpool – run by “sonic branding” company Condiment Junkie, Glyndwr University and architects Nightingale Associates, found that playing pupils birdsong and other natural sounds made them more alert and better able to concentrate after their lunch break. The power seems to come from the lack of repetition and the randomness of the sounds. There is no repeating rhythm or pattern to focus on. “It doesn’t get stuck in your head and annoy you, but it doesn’t lull you to sleep and bore you either,” says Russell Jones, from Condiment Junkie. “I’m not sure there is any other sound that can do what birdsong does. It should be part of the soundtrack to everyone’s day.”

Alder Hey Hospital also has found that playing birdsong in their wards, recorded from local parks, helped children remain calm before injections and surgery. And Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport uses birdsong in a quiet lounge where people can relax before their flight. It’s played through speakers hidden in real trees.

Research is continuing into this fascinating area. A three-year study looking at how natural sounds can improve mood and attention is being undertaken by Eleanor Radcliffe at the University of Surrey, part funded by the National Trust and Surrey Wildlife Trust. Ratcliffe is looking at the possibility that in the future people could be prescribed certain birdsong to suit individual needs. So whilst you can’t beat being out in nature to experience this, recorded birdsong can also offer us benefits.

And for all those gardeners out there, the benefits have long been known of being outdoors and connecting with the earth and soil: Recommended more and more as a natural treatment for depression and anxiety by the medical profession, many of my clients swear this is their best ‘go- to’ when they’re feeling stressed and anxious “hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature . . . to nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” – Alfred Austin. (For more benefits click here: Gardening May Decrease Your Anxiety And Depression).

And finally, I like to take a few moments whilst I’m out in nature, or listening to the birds, to just feel gratitude for the beauty of the natural world around us and this just puts the ‘icing on the cake’, carrying us so graciously and effortlessly into a higher vibration of peace, calm and joy.

Alison Middleton
Mind Body Transformation Coach

<< Read Part 2


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