Dawn Chorus Day is coming up on the 3rd of May, a day for celebrating spring, the arrival of many seasonal species and the beautiful song they bring us. It is also a reminder that we don’t want our nature to fall silent.
In this blog, Elaine Bradley, our Nature Prescriptions Project Executive and a Mindfulness Teacher, and RSPB Scotland's Allie McGregor, discuss the potential health benefits of tuning into the dawn chorus. Elaine also shares how we can wake up mindfully with the dawn chorus.
Relaxing with the dawn chorus
There is growing evidence that connecting with nature can support health and wellbeing. Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce anxiety and hypertension, improve cardiovascular health, increase concentration, life satisfaction and overall levels of happiness. While much of the nature that surrounds us is difficult to experience and enjoy fully at this time, one thing we can all do from the comfort of our own homes, is listen to the sounds of nature.
There are many nature sounds to tune into at springtime, such as the buzz of newly awakened bees, the patter of rain against a window or the rustling of fresh leaves or blossoms swaying in a spring breeze. Undoubtedly one of the most widely anticipated and enjoyed sounds of spring is the dawn chorus.
Tuning into the dawn chorus can help us feel connected to the world around us, remind us of the changing seasons and that we are not alone in our environment. Listening to bird song can also help reduce the effects of stress. Research suggests that the sounds of nature can calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is associated with fight or flight responses, and engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and the chance for the body to recover and rest.
“I personally really appreciate the way the dawn chorus helps me to take a moment and take a breath”, says Allie. “As someone who is often on the edge of panic, especially with the difficult times we are all experiencing, hearing the dawn chorus (or birdsong at any time of day) helps me ground myself. I also feel so delighted to hear twittering and singing and to search the trees, air and ground around me for the species leading the chorus. While I can’t make trips up the coast to see seabirds, or to the forest at Abernethy to spot a crested tit and a red squirrel, my appreciation for my local birds has grown and helped me to stay motivated to do all I can to protect our delightful dawn chorus singers.”
Listening to the dawn chorus doesn’t have to involve knowing or naming what we hear (or see). In fact, many health benefits can be gained from not focusing on knowing! It can be helpful to let go of thinking chatter and problem solving for a while and just relax into the direct sensory experience of the natural world around us. We can simply tune in to the different songs as they arise, noticing and appreciating the different tones, uniqueness and richness of sounds. We can also notice how we are relating to what we hear, for example, how the body responds as we listen and how the experience makes us feel. Connecting in this way allows us to cultivate a deeper connection to the natural world, potentially increasing enjoyment and wellbeing, as well as reminding us that we are nature too!
Here, Elaine offers an exploration of how to wake up mindfully with the dawn chorus:
Find out more about the health benefits of connecting with nature at:
Visit our website to celebrate Dawn Chorus Day with us and find out how you can take action to prevent nature from falling silent: rspb.org.uk/dawnchorus
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