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Humans Are Happier Around Birds, Science Shows

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There is a growing number of studies that show that spending time in nature can improve your well-being. A new Cal Poly study has shed some light on why being in nature elevates our mood. According to their research, the sounds of nature and birds elevate our mood. To determine this, the researchers played bird songs on speakers along trails, and the hikers who heard the songs reported a greater sense of well-being than hikers who did not hear extra bird songs. But why?

Few studies look at how natural sounds affect our mood.

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Danielle Ferraro, a graduate student researcher, said in a statement that, "While the bigger picture of nature’s restorative properties is likely to involve multiple senses, our study is the first to experimentally manipulate a single one (sound) in the field and demonstrate its importance to human experiences in nature."

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Bird sounds may indicate more biodiversity.

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The birdsongs played by the researchers represented several different species of birds. Those who heard the recordings reported that they thought more birds lived along that section of the trail. The researchers suspect that the hiker’s perception of the biodiversity in the region was responsible for affecting their mood. Previous studies have shown that people are happier when sensing greater biodiversity. And birds are a particularly important indicator because people enjoy watching and listening to them.

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The power of sound is often overlooked.

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"We're such visual animals that we discount this modality of sound that we have," Clinton Francis, who supervised the Cal Poly research, said in the press release. "I'm still kind of flabbergasted that only 7-10 minutes of exposure to these sounds improved people's well-being. It really underscores how important hearing is to us and probably to other animals."

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Previous research has also shown that birds have a measurable effect on happiness.

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The German Center for Integrative Biodiversity completed a survey of 26,000 Europeans in 2012. Their research found that living in an area with a wide variety of birds increases life satisfaction as much as receiving an extra $150 a week in income.

“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,” explains, Joel Methorst, who led the study.

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Sound management may be an important aspect of park management.

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The Cal Poly study points out how important sound is to our sense of well-being. If natural landscapes are polluted by human-made noise, we risk diminishing the restorative properties of our natural spaces.

"Our results underscore the need for park managers to reduce anthropogenic noise pollution, which is not only a cost-effective way to improve visitors' experiences but can also benefit wildlife as well," explained Ferraro.

h/t: Cal Poly News

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