2020 has brought with it a piquing curiosity in the science of balance and happiness. What is required to maintain harmony in one’s life, and what are some key components that might not be related to conscious decision-making? Much like a recent study examining the correlation between health and proximity to a park or green, natural space, a study has come out of the UK examining the effects of birdsong on happiness.
Breaking down the study
According to the new study, completed by the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research, people who live in proximity to – or encounter – a certain number of bird species and songs are happier people overall. Researchers examined data collected in a 2012 study that surveyed over 26,000 people from 26 different European countries. Lead author and doctoral researcher at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre Joel Methorst explained, “According to our findings, the happiest Europeans are those who can experience numerous different bird species in their daily life, or who live in near-natural surroundings that are home to many species.”
If you are in close proximity to at least 14 species of birds, the study found that your fulfillment levels are equivalent to making an additional $150 per month. “Much to our surprise, we found that avian diversity is as important for [humans’] life satisfaction as is their income,” explains Professor Dr. Katrin Böhning-Gaese (also of Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre).
In 2019, The University of Surrey published a report claiming that the physical vibration and sound produced as birdsong directly improves a person’s mood. While a rooster’s call is a bit shrill at times, it is linked to a human’s natural circadian rhythm and does have the capacity to induce a positive start to the day. Bird calls and songs were cited in their findings as to the natural sound that most aids in the recovery of stress and restoration of focus.
Can living in proximity to this animal really make you happier?
But it’s not just because the sound of many different birds is literally like music to your ears, either. (Though, having a variety of natural sounds to choose from definitely doesn’t hurt matters.) It’s because of what many species of birds in one place means. Different species of birds rely on different hydration levels, varying types of greenery and grub to feast on, and much more. When a habitat plays host to multiple species of birds, there is more biological diversity present in the space. This is not only appealing to the human eye but also indicates better natural resources. Increased foliage provides better air quality and indicates a balanced environment regarding light and water. When plants thrive in an environment, it is often correctly assumed that people will also thrive in that environment. So the link between birds and their habitat expectations is key to some of these results.
If space does play home to multiple species of birds, greenery is undoubtedly involved. Where there is greenery, the air quality is better. Breathing fresh air at an improved quality or increased rate boosts serotonin to your brain, which causes at least momentary feelings of elation. Living in an environment like this or having daily exposure to an environment like this – like in a park or garden, or even playing plant parent in your apartment – can greatly decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety because of those constant releases of serotonin, in addition to other benefits.
Biodiversity is often key to positive mental function in humans. Unfortunately, global warming and other natural disasters have sped up the decline of agricultural landscapes around the world. The 2019 study’s conclusions were morbid. Admitted by Methorst, “The Global Assessment 2019 by the World Biodiversity Council IPBES and studies of avian species in agricultural landscapes in Europe clearly show that the biological diversity is currently undergoing a dramatic decline. This poses the risk that human well-being will also suffer from an impoverished nature. Nature conservation therefore not only ensures our material basis of life, but it also constitutes an investment in the well-being of us all.”
If you have the ability, increase the earth’s capacity for natural habitats by improving the one you’re in. Greenery, feng shui, bird feeders, smoke-free landscapes, and more will attract species that thrive. What a simple way to approach mental health!