I think that any of us who have walked through the woods in the early morning listening to the birds greeting the day would reckon that that was a no brainer – but it is always good to have a bit of resesarch to confirm one’s hunch.
So thanks to Emil Stobbe, MSc, a predoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, who, with colleagues, gathered together a research group of 295 subjects in their late 20s without any history of mental illness, hearing difficulties or substance/drug intake. The group’s task was to listen to 6 minutes worth of birds singing and then another 6 minutes worth of traffic noises, including car engines, sirens, and construction. (Personally, I would have thought that 6 minutes was a bit short but they seemed to think that was enough to get results.)
The researchers found that people who listened to recordings of birds singing experienced a significant reduction in anxiety and paranoia whereas recordings of traffic noises, including car engines, sirens, and construction, increased depressive states. None of the soundscapes had any effect on cognition.
The results, they said, suggest that ‘it may be worthwhile to investigate the targeted use of natural sounds such as birdsong in a clinical setting — for example, in hospital waiting rooms or in psychiatric settings’. They also suggested investigating mixed soundscapes – for example, examining whether the presence of natural sounds in urban settings lower stressors such as traffic noise.
I’d buy all of those. The birdsong above, by the way, was recorded walking on Hampstead Heath early in lockdown when the birds were doing their very best to cheer us all up.