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Listening to bird song lowers stress levels and mental fatigue


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In a recent survey conducted by the Museum, 73% of people reported hearing louder bird song during the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK.

Many said it comforted and calmed them at a time of crisis - and research shows it really could help improve our mental health. 

While it is pleasant to listen to, could something bigger be going on inside our brains when we hear tweeting and singing from parks and gardens?

Dr Eleanor Ratcliffe, a lecturer in environmental psychology at the University of Surrey, looked at how bird sounds may restore attention and alleviate stress.

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The research found some bird sounds offered relief from mental fatigue and stress. This depended on the type of bird and what respondents associated it with.

Levels of mental restoration also depend on the type of sound made by a bird.

For example, the melody of a songbird was well-received as it sounded musical and pleasant. However, the call of a magpie generated stress as it was loud and raucous which reminded some participants of intentional aggression.

There are a couple of theories as to why nature has a healing effect on us.

The first looks at evolution and proposes that humans have a genetically built-in preference for nature, having spent thousands of years roaming the wilderness before constructing towns and cities.

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Hearing bird song signals life is already present in an area, and depending on the type of sounds made, implies safety. 

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