This planet Earth is “custom made” for us humans; it offers everything we need for our survival and our wellbeing. At least, this is the case for what nature provides for us, for it is especially civilisation – cities, traffic, industry and so on – that causes problems for us, for example in the form of noise. It is known that the amygdala, the central brain area that is involved in the processing of stress, is more activated in people who live in cities compared to people who live in rural areas. The city noise constantly puts the body on alert, especially so, when many different sounds are mixed constantly. Therefore, living in a city is also considered a risk factor for mental disorders such as depression.
By contrast, spending time in nature is beneficial to body and mind. After a one-hour walk in the countryside, already the activity of the stress-processing amygdala decreases while relaxation increases.1)Sudimac, S., Sale, V., & Kühn, S. (2022). How nature nurtures: Amygdala activity decreases as the result of a one-hour walk in nature. Molecular Psychiatry. Advance online publication. Studies show that the manifold sounds of nature – rain falling, the sound of waves, the howling of the wind, insects humming, bird song – not only inspire us and connect us to nature, but also have a positive effect on our health. Those in tune with nature feel less pain, are more relaxed, are in a better mood and possess enhanced cognitive performance. The sounds of water have proven especially helpful in evoking positive emotions and improving overall health, while bird sounds counteract stress and annoyance.2)Rachel T. Buxton el al., A synthesis of health benefits of natural sounds and their distribution in national parks, PNAS (2021). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.2013097118
Indeed, the effects of the songs of these feathered fellows, that happily greet every new day and praise the beauty of creation, may not be underestimated. The voices of the birds not only ameliorate the symptoms of depression and anxiety, but can even reduce paranoid thoughts, new research shows. Therefore, bird song could possibly be used to prevent mental illnesses, the scientists write. This works by playing a CD with such sounds, but the most effective is to very consciously, maybe even with your eyes closed, listen to the birds when spending time in nature or sitting at an open window in the morning.3)Stobbe, E., Sundermann, J., Ascone, L., & Kühn, S. (2022). Birdsongs alleviate anxiety and paranoia in healthy participants. Scientific Reports, 12, Article 16414.
In the face of the fact that nature is irreplaceable and vital for our health, we need to be aware that we are robbing ourselves of these essential treasures daily and breathtakingly fast. Today, one in eight bird species is threatened by extinction, and globally almost half of all bird species are in decline.4)https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/sep/28/nearly-half-worlds-bird-species-in-decline-as-destruction-of-avian-life-intensifies-aoe For many other animal and plant species the situation is very similar.
A change of thinking is urgently needed, therefore. All life on this Earth – be it plant, animal or human – is connected and dependent on each other. We are becoming better at realizing which achievements of our civilization are more curse than blessing. And because we are the ones who have created these things ourselves, it is also in our hands to bring forth the necessary changes. Let’s do this!
|↑1||Sudimac, S., Sale, V., & Kühn, S. (2022). How nature nurtures: Amygdala activity decreases as the result of a one-hour walk in nature. Molecular Psychiatry. Advance online publication.|
|↑2||Rachel T. Buxton el al., A synthesis of health benefits of natural sounds and their distribution in national parks, PNAS (2021). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.2013097118|
|↑3||Stobbe, E., Sundermann, J., Ascone, L., & Kühn, S. (2022). Birdsongs alleviate anxiety and paranoia in healthy participants. Scientific Reports, 12, Article 16414.|