Brain Waves with Debra Rose

Bird Brain

Visitors to Montauk have questioned if there are actual speakers around town blasting the various chirps and songs of birds since their sounds are so potent.  The most striking signal of spring besides increased daylight is the daily soundtrack of birdsong.  It is something we notice as soon as it increases, and we are keenly aware when it grinds to a halt in the fall.  The absence is dramatic; we grow accustomed to associate birdsong with summer and detect the eerie stillness when the seasons change.  As it turns out, not only do we take note, but we are also happier when we hear them.

We continue to learn that our exposure to nature delivers a dose of joy, is an antidote for angst and melancholy, and improves our overall well-being.  If you are reading this and have a connection to Montauk, you innately understand this.  We also know our brains are hard-wired to be connected to water, simply staring at it can calm despair and bring inner peace.  Birds’ variety of colors, their ability to fly, their very deliberate and delicate movements fascinate us even if we do not articulate it.  Now we are learning that seeing, and hearing birds, can lift our moods and make us feel more satisfied in life.  How is this possible?

A morning that begins with the sound of birds will automatically force you to have a better day.  We may find ourselves listening to the bird calls, the songs within the chirps, the repeated chorus of bird communication.  We are present, in the moment, being mindful, which also produces a boost of optimism.  Even if you do not consider yourself to be a ‘cheery’ person, the sound of birds is bound to make you smile.

When you travel to an environment or vacation in an area surrounded by birdsong, is it not one of the most impactful stimuli to grab your attention?

Neuroscience tells us that we subconsciously know that birds are chirping regardless of a bad-day, stress, or worry.  Our brain has evolved to balance the attention paid to primal environmental fears (dinosaurs, for example) with our daily trivial concerns. The pure sounds of birds can refocus our brains to the here-and-now by simply stopping to listen.  The importance of protecting biodiversity and maintaining environments for our birds ensures their longevity as well as ours.  Research continues to show that exposure to plants, water, trees, birds, and birdsong have a major impact on our mental health, even in those with a diagnosis of depression.

The next time you tune in to the sound of birds, notice if you find yourself following the pattern of the sounds, listening to something bigger than all of us and our daily concerns.  Is it possible to enjoy the birdsong and take a pause from your perpetual thoughts for a powerful does of happiness?  Try complaining while truly listening to the songs around you.  Studies confirm what your instincts likely suspected; that the lift in mood lasts for hours after the morning serenade from our little beaked friends concludes for the day.  Since the season of their presence in our environment is so short, soak up the sounds while you can.