Recent research suggests that listening to particular birdsong can help to reconnect us to nature and its restorative benefits.
Why does birdsong help us to destress, rebalance and rejuvenate?
One theory is that hearing birdsong suggests that life in a particular area is present, thriving and sustainable (Begum, 2020). Furthermore, in an evolutionary sense, we as humans perceive birdsong as safety and security guiding us to feel more grounded, calm and energised. However, it does depend upon the song and the bird!
Pigeons and magpies, for example can be perceived as irritating, aggressive and non-melodic, leaving the listener no more relaxed or grounded than they were before. However, bird's that have a more melodic or rhythmic song such as sparrows, robins, great tits, greenfinch, blue tits, dunnock and starlings seem to leave the listener with a sense of security, safety, calm and connection. In this link you can check out some common birdsongs and test yourself on any you may already recognise: Birdsong identification for beginners: 20 common songs and calls | Natural History Museum (nhm.ac.uk)
In my practice I always offer, suggest and recommend nature therapy/shinrin yoku to my clients regardless of their presenting issues. Nature therapy is for everyone and I am very passionate about sharing my love of the outdoors with as many people as possible. It is part of my job to introduce, guide and invite my clients to reconnect with the outdoors: regardless of whether they are someone who is very familiar or someone who is less familiar and unsure of being in outdoor spaces. Currently I work in both urban and rural spaces, sharing the benefits of being outside in nature with a wide variety of people coping with diverse mental and physical issues.
Bringing the outdoors inside is easier than it seems, it is not necessarily building lush gardens and atriums indoors, it can be much simpler and still very effective.
My recent clients were in hospital recovering from illness and/or living with serious illness and my remit was to help their recovery by reconnecting them with the sights, sounds, smells and feel of the outdoors. Research has shown that patients exposed to natural light, broad/open landscapes, realistic art installations, photos of the natural world, scents such as pine and fir, natural textures, flowers, plants and sounds of nature recover faster, have better mental health and a more positive outlook on their illness and life in general.
By means of explaining what we can do I will share the story of "Client A". Client A is a man living with a life-limiting illness, he is a regular walker and enjoys the outdoors and after speaking with him we prescribed the following for his hospital stay:
Placing his bed and chair as close to a source of natural light and air as possible.
The use of a small diffuser with both fir and pine essential oils.
A large landscape poster or photograph, in this case it was of a wooded area with a stream running through it.
A Chinese evergreen plant and a watermelon peperomia plant.
A selection of tree foliage, including a branch, leaves, acorns, chestnuts and pine needles (to lie on his windowsill).
A recording of different birdsongs and gentle running water.
A bespoke visual meditation practice.
This is just an example of what we mean when we say bringing the outdoors indoors. It is a powerful tool to use in almost any setting.
In the future I hope to help bring the benefits of nature into the work environment -designing programs and spaces that can be utilized during the working day to ground, destress, balance and restore attention.
My professional practice, my clients and my personal life have benefitted tremendously from being in nature: relearning our innate connection to the outdoors and leaning into the strength, resilience and restorative qualities that nature has to offer. Nature allied psychotherapy is a powerful tool to help people with their mental and physical health - the connection between the mind and the body is never more obvious than when we are outdoors.
Please get in touch if you would like more information about Nature therapy, Nature allied psychotherapy or if you have a specific project you would like to collaborate on. In the meantime - open the window or the door, go outside, listen to the birdsong and just breathe.
Sara Copley, PGDip. IMC. MCMA.
Azumi-Wellness: Mental Health Consultant
Begum, T. 2020. How listening to birdsong can transform our mental health. Anthropocene - Natural History Museum, U.K. How listening to birdsong can transform our mental health | Natural History Museum (nhm.ac.uk)