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  • Julia Blackwell

The Sound of Nature

The hills are alive with the sound of... nature!


Did you know that tuning into natural sounds - be them right from the source or a recording - have the power to positively impact the brain, heart rate, and the nervous system?


In 2017, researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School conducted a study which involved 17 participants aged 21-34 years old. The focus of the study was to contrast the impact of exposure to "artificial and naturalistic 'soundscapes'" to measure "task engagement, rumination, distraction by thoughts distraction by the soundscapes themselves." The researchers found the majority of the participants favoured the naturalistic sounds, finding them more pleasant and less distracting. Natural sounds were found to be soothing by increased engagement of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS is known for increasing a sense of calmness and decreasing the automatic fight-flight threat response. Overall brain health and balance was positive and heart rate was decreased when participants listened to natural sounds as well. The impacts of the sounds of nature on these areas of our bodies all lead to increased ability to mediate stress and increase focus.


A larger research study, published in 2018 involved 65 participants aged 18-44 years old found similar results. This study contrasted "40 natural and 40 urban soundscapes." Researchers found immediate outcomes of cognitive performance and improved focused with demanding tasks to be a significant outcome by even just a single exposure to natural soundscapes contrasted to urban. Improved mood, capacity for self-reflection, and attention were also positive findings from this study.


By tuning into the sounds of nature, we have a powerful tool to not only combat stress, but to help manage other concerns such as anxiety, depression, dysregulation from trauma, and more.

The question then may be how to apply these research findings into our daily lives to improve work-life balance, manage stress, improve focus and mood, and to bring about a sense of calm? Below are a list of ideas of ways you can begin to use the sounds of nature to reduce stress and to feel more regulated!

  • Take a break outside! Even just a few minutes of direct nature time and soaking in its sounds can be impactful.

  • Listening to a nature sounds playlist. Mimic the research studies by cultivating your very own nature soundscape!

  • Watering plants.

  • White noise (i.e. online; white noise machine) to mimic a gentle natural humming.

  • Open a window to let in the sounds of morning birds or evening crickets.

  • If you're in BC, Canada, embracing the sound of rain!

  • Having a water fountain if you find the sound of water to be soothing.

  • Check out a nature sounds CD from the library. Popular collections include ocean waves, amongst other sounds from nature.

  • If you have pets, embracing the sounds they make.

Wondering how to apply nature sounds as a way to manage stress, anxiety, and overall mental health and wellbeing? Contact me for a free 15 minute consultation to to learn more or to get started with counselling to develop even more ways to cope and feel more connected!

References

Hedger, S., Nusbaum, H., Clohisy, L., Jaeggi, S., Buschkuehl, M., & Berman, M. (2018). Of cricket chips and car horns: The effect of nature sounds on cognitive performance. Retrieved from Springer Link.


MacMillan, A. (2022). Why nature sounds are great for relaxation. Retrieved from Health.


Praag, C., Garfinkel, S., Sparasci, O., Mees, A., Philippides, A., Ware, M., Ottaviani, C., & Critchley, H. (2017). Mind-wandering and alterations to default mode network connectivity when listening to naturalistic versus artificial sounds. Retrieved from Scientific Reports.


Sarkar, D. (2021). ASMR of nature: How natural sounds can lower stress and improve anxiety and depression. Retrieved from Discover Magazine.

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