The Health Benefits of Nature Sounds According to Research

Why Do We Feel Relaxed After Hearing Nature Sounds? This Research Explains

More than alleviate pain and reduce stress, natural soundscapes help improve one’s mood and cognitive performance.

The healing power of nature has been tackled countless times, but they mostly only go as far as discussing it in the context of fresh air and beautiful scenery. When going to beaches, forests, and mountains on a summery day, it’s also common to feel more energised because of restorative vitamins and hormones given out by the sun.

However, the benefits of nature go beyond that. In fact, there’s a study that says merely hearing the sounds from natural surroundings can go a long way for our health, too. So if you’re one of those who suddenly feel more relaxed after going to a natural attraction, there’s actually more to what you’re feeling than meets the eye.

Also read: 7 Self-Care Tips to Protect Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The benefits of nature sounds

According to Rachel Buxton, who’s a research associate in the department of biology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, sounds produced by nature have a positive effect on the human mind and body. So much that they can actually heal pain that we may be experiencing in a particular moment.

Image credit: Sreenivas

The sounds referred to include rain falling, waves lapping, birds chirping, and believe it or not, wolves howling. This finding is part of a study Buxton co-authored with fellow researchers from Michigan State University, Colorado State University, and the United States (US) National Park Service.

“As traffic has declined during quarantine, many people have connected with soundscapes in a whole new way — noticing the relaxing sounds of birds singing just outside their window. How remarkable that these sounds are also good for our health,” she said via Carleton University’s newsroom.

More than alleviate pain and reduce stress, natural soundscapes help improve one’s mood and cognitive performance. To break it down further, sounds related to water (geophysical sounds) are best for encouraging positive emotions. Meanwhile, those related to animals like birds (biological sources) are best for combatting stress and annoyance.

Also read: 10 Natural Wonders Around the World You Have to See to Believe

More about the study

To successfully pull off the research, the researchers analysed more than 200 acoustic monitoring sites in over 60 national parks in the US. Comparison groups consisting of university students then identified sounds, and their responses were studied afterwards. Existing literature on soundscapes and their effects on human health were likewise reviewed.

Image credit: Will Myers

The study also states that even with the presence of man-made noise, the benefits of nature can still prevail if its sounds are prominent and persistent enough. “In parks, noise degrades visitor enjoyment and health. However, the presence of natural sounds alongside noise in some instances can improve the perception of soundscape quality, promoting calmness and reductions in annoyance.”

Given these findings, the authors believe that more efforts should go to protecting natural soundscapes, specifically in national parks. Meanwhile, those who have easy access to them must take advantage of the natural surroundings by simply closing one’s eyes and listening to the sounds around them.

“These sounds are beautiful and good for our health – they deserve our protection,” Buxton said. To view the study entitled, A synthesis of health benefits of natural sounds and their distribution in national parks, visit the online journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Featured image credit: Byrdyak via Canva Pro

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Joser Ferreras
Joser Ferreras

Joser writes about travel, people, and business. A former researcher, he wants to debunk the old saying 'write what you know' by acknowledging that good content is also the outcome of one's openness to learn something new.

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