Enjoy the Benefits of Listening to Nature

Sounds of birds and babbling brooks could be relaxing.

Jul 8, 2021
Enjoy the Benefits of Listening to Nature | Sounds of birds and babbling brooks could be relaxing.

Being out in nature helps reduce stress and anxiety. That’s why the Japanese promote forest bathing and doctors in Scotland are writing prescriptions for bird watching and nature walks. But did you know that just listening to the sounds of nature could have the same effect?

A new study conducted by researchers from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, Colorado State University, Michigan State University, and the US National Park Service that analyzed data from 18 previous studies, suggests that listing to nature made sounds may decrease stress and pain according to Mental Floss. It even found which sounds were the most beneficial and listening to birds and the gurgle of a running brook were the most effective.

The research, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, studied audio tracks that were recorded at 221 sites across 68 national parks. The recordings were played for participants in a lab setting and the most significant outcome was a decrease in stress and annoyance plus many participants reported decreased pain, increased concentration, and improved mood.

One drawback the researchers found was that the national parks that were the least polluted from anthropogenic noise — generated by people or are man made – were the most remote ones that are far from urban areas. This makes visiting national parks to reap the health benefits of nature less effective because natural soundscapes are polluted by human noise.

The researchers aren’t sure why people have positive reactions to certain natural sounds, but they have theories. It’s possible that people consider natural sounds to be less jarring or threatening than human made noise which is known to produce stress.

The study’s lead author, Rachel Buxton, PhD, a research associate and conservation biologist in the department of biology at Carleton University told Everyday Health that she isn’t surprised by the findings. “From an evolutionary perspective, humans are hardwired to attend to signals of danger and security. And an environment that is filled with natural sounds feels safe and allows us to let our guard down,” she said.

One of the most exciting things to come out of this review is the fact that listening to recordings of nature seems to be as effective as visiting nature in person. Buxton said that the team plans to continue to study the effects of nature sounds on health and well-being in order to find out which sounds are the most effective and what quantity works the best.

This research is just one of many recent findings that show that proximity to nature and spending time outdoors is good for you. But, just seeing nature can also counter some of the negative health effects of spending time indoors according to research published in the journal  Ecological Applications. The study looked at 3,000 people in Tokyo, Japan and found that seeing greenery from a window helped improve mental health.

Nature is an environmental healer, so take a walk or  a forest bath, surround your home with greenery, and add the sounds of nature to your playlist. You may feel less stressed, happier, and healthier by immersing yourself in nature.

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Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.