Mental Health Is For the Birds: Why Listening to Our Fine-Feathered Friends Improves Our Well-Being

Birds in Little Neck Bay in New York City

By Jonathan Spira on 22 May 2023
  • Share

Every morning before breakfast, Snickers the Wonderdog and I go out for a walk and we take in the wonders of nature together.  The walk – and the time together – do us both a world of good.

Research has shown that the simple act of petting an animal lowers the stress hormone cortisol, while the social interaction increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin, the same hormone that bonds mothers to babies.

Research from 2003 shows that both humans and dog oxytocin levels in the blood rose after a five to 24 minute session of walking, petting, and playing.

One thing I always look forward to once we exit our abode and walk out into the garden is the sound of birds singing. This is not only free entertainment. Two studies published in 2022 in the journal Scientific Reports found that seeing or hearing birds could be good for people’s mental well-being.

In one study at Kings College in London, researchers found a significant positive association between seeing or hearing birds and improved mental well-being, even when accounting for other possible explanations such as education, occupation, or the presence of greenery and water, things are also associated with positive mental health.

The researchers found that the improved mental well-being persisted for hours after the encounter with our fine-feathered friends.

Yet another study found that listening to six-minute clips of birdsongs alleviates feelings of anxiety and paranoia, even if the birdsongs are prerecorded.

As I type this, I can hear birds singing outside my windows.  I’ve seen numerous varieties of birds including red breasted robins, sparrows, cardinals, and blue jays.  For that matter, since I’m in New York City, I also see birds that conjure up the voice of Tom Lehrer singing his hit single, “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park,” but I digress.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News