Many studies have proven that spending time in the middle of nature brings benefits to mental health and, little by little, new researches appear that indicate the reasons for this to occur. In December 2020, the State Polytechnic University of California, USA, published a study in which it investigates how much natural sounds that humans hear during their time outdoors contribute to the feeling of well-being.
“Although the landscape of nature’s restorative properties probably involves several senses, our study is the first to experimentally manipulate a single (sound) in the field and demonstrate its importance for human experiences in nature”, says Danielle Ferraro, a graduate student in biology, who conducted the research.
Focused on the effect of birdsong, the scientists installed speakers on two trails in a park in Colorado. The equipment reproduced songs recorded by a diverse group of birds. In each section of the track, in weekly blocks, the researchers alternated between turning the corner on and off. Participants were interviewed after the experience.
Those who heard birdsong reported a greater sense of well-being than those who did not. In the first section of the trail, hikers who heard more birdsong simply reported that they felt better, but did not comment that they thought more birds lived on that part of the trail. Hikers who heard more birdsong in the other section said they thought more birds lived along that section of the trail, and the researchers found that this perception of more species was responsible for making hikers feel better.
“We are so visual animals that we disregard this kind of sound that we have,” says biology professor Clinton Francis, who supervised the research. “I’m still a little amazed that just 7 to 10 minutes of exposure to these sounds has improved people’s well-being. This really underscores how important hearing is for us and probably other animals.”
The research team emphasizes the need to reduce human noise pollution inside and outside protected areas “to contribute to more happiness.” Just like the song of birds, when walking along a trail you can hear other sounds of nature, also relaxing, as well as the benefit to the brain of exposure to silence.
“Our results underscore the need for park managers to reduce anthropogenic noise pollution, which is not only an economical way to improve visitor experiences, but can also benefit wildlife,” says Ferraro.
To attract birds, you can plant trees, and even make a feeder in your backyard.