New Discovery: Listening to Nature’s Sounds like Running Water Is Good for Our Health

It’s no secret that we benefit from spending time in nature. A brisk walk and a breath of fresh air or basking in the summer sun are all activities we associate with relaxation.

Numerous studies have concluded that being in contact with nature has positive influence on our mental and physical health, including higher energy and lower levels of stress.

And, a recent study says we should also add the natural sounds to the pro list.

Namely, researchers have found that sounds of the nature have a healing effect on humans and can better our mental health significantly.

The Healing Sounds of Nature

We often experience a sense of stillness and calmness when we hear birds chirping or ocean waves crashing.

It turns out that this feeling has a physiological reason which explains why nature’s sounds are so soothing.

A team of scientists from Brighton and Sussex Medical School in England explored nature’s healing capacity and wanted to discover how it influences our brain and body in a paper from 2017 published in the journal Nature.

For the purpose of the research, seventeen adults listened to various five-minute sound clips of man-made and natural environments.

With each clip playing, the scientists scanned the brain activity of the participants with fMRI   machines. They discovered that the sounds physically influence the Default Mode Network in the brains of the participants.

This part of our brains is responsible for a task-free wakefulness state in which we’re relaxed. That is, the sounds of nature lowered the participants’ fight-or-flight instincts and helped them relax.

On the other hand, the man-made environment sounds like traffic noise, influenced the participants differently. They lowered their concentration and elevated their inward attention, causing excessive thinking or worrying about themselves.

This self-focused thinking has been associated with higher anxiety and depression in other research.

How Can We Boost the Health Advantages from Listening to Nature’s Sounds?

A study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently explored how spending time in nature and listening to its sounds may help.

They analyzed recordings from 251 sites from 66 national parks in the US. They concluded that the individuals who listened to the sounds had better mood, reduced stress, and improved cognition.

Water was the most potent in evoking their positive feelings whereas the noises of birds were the best in relieving stress.

According to Rachel Buxton who’s the study’s author and a conservation biologist at Carleton University, these sounds are an important resource of nature.

The same advantages the participants experienced can be found in daily life by spending more time in nature.

We should therefore increase our time spent in parks, near rivers and beaches, in forests, etc.

Sources:

SMITHSONIAN MAG

DISCOVER MAGAZINE

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