Close up of a reed bunting bird perched on a flower

Birdsong and mindfulness

18 August 2020
Heart of England Forest

There are many techniques to help focus our minds on the here and now. One is to tune in and listen to the birds that you can hear outside.

What is mindfulness?

Our minds have a habit of drifting back to a past memory, ruminating over something that happened earlier in the day, or flashing forward to plan for the future. When our mind jumps around like this, we cannot connect to the moment we are in, the beauty around us, and get perspective on our reality as it is right now.

Mindfulness is the practice of being in the moment. The idea is not to clear your mind of thoughts – it is more to just notice those thoughts as they come, not get involved with them and let them float away.


The Benefits of Mindfulness

  • Reduces Anxiety – By taking time to observe your thoughts and see that they may be saying something different to reality, we are able to question those anxiety-inducing thoughts when they arise and not always believe the critical voice in our heads
  • Improves self-esteem and body image – By giving us space between ourselves and our sometimes critical thoughts, mindfulness can be a starting place for a better relationship with ourselves
  • Improves focus – Studies on the brain have shown that mindfulness meditation creates new pathways in the brain, particularly in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) which controls our attention levels

Birdsong and mindfulness

There are lots of techniques to keep our minds focused on the here and now. Some people focus on their breathing, counting it in and out. Others use movement – like running or walking. Here we are suggesting that you tune into the birds you can hear outside and identify them; you may need to do some research to find out which birds you are listening to.

Then, every time you are going for a walk, drinking a cup of coffee outside or simply have the window open, just run through the names of the birds you can hear – you will be amazed how calming it is.

Close up shot of a Dunnock bird perched on a branch

Try it out

Next time you visit the Forest, or any time you are out in nature and can hear bird song, try to listen to all the sounds that you can hear.

  1. Name the noisy birds first – there will always be those that come through the loudest.
  2. Then listen deeper – what can you hear in the distance, or just softly in the tree, can you hear young chicks calling to their parents?
  3. Not sure on your bird songs? The RSPB has a helpful app that will help you identify each song. Build up your knowledge and the songs each time you visit the forest.
  4. By focusing on what you can hear right now, in the present moment, you resist the urge for your mind to wander off into the past or to worry about something in the future. This is mindfulness.


Birds you might hear in the forest

The mosaic of habitats in the Forest attract a wide variety of birds, including many Red and Amber List Species of Conservation Concern. Listen out for the chirruping of the reed bunting, the soft warbling of the dunnock and the noisy chattering of the fieldfare. Read more about the birds that call the Forest home.


Feel good in the Forest

Our series of forest therapy articles explores the different ways we can feel good when visiting the Forest. Discover the benefits of natural light and forest bathing.


Further reading

'Bird Therapy' by Joe Harkness

'A Mindfulness Guide to the Frazzled' by Ruby Wax

'Mindfulness' by Professor Mark Williams

'The Natural Health Service' by Isabel Hardman