Why Nature Sounds Help You Relax, According to Science
Too stressed? Try walking in the woods for a few minutes or play a sound machine that plays recordings from nature. New research says that listening to nature sounds can affect your heart rate and alter connections in your brain in a positive way.
If you ever listened to the water babbling down a stream or leaves rustling in the wind, then you might be familiar with the feeling of so much calmness that washes over you when hearing these sounds. Well, there’s actually a scientific reason why nature sounds help us relax which researchers from Brighton and Sussex Medical School in England had identified. According to the research which was published in the journal Scientific Reports, these sounds alter the connections in our brains and reduce our body’s natural fight-or-flight instinct.
Although it has been long known that nature sounds and green scenery have a positive effect on our psyche and well-being, this new research is the first to use brain scans, heart monitors, and behavioral experiments to suggest a physiological cause for these effects.
The research process
The researchers recruited 17 healthy adults to receive functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans while they are listening to a series of five-minute soundtracks of natural and man-made environments.
During each session, the participants are asked to perform a certain task to measure their attention and reaction time. To identify changes in their autonomic nervous systems (the system of organs responsible for involuntary processes such as breathing, blood pressure, temperature, metabolism, and digestion), their heart rates were monitored as well.
The fMRI results indicated activity in the brain’s default mode network, varied depending on the background sounds they are listening to. Default mode network is an area involved in mind wandering and “task-free” states for wakefulness.
When participants listen to artificial sounds, patterns of inward-focused attention were identified while nature sounds prompted more external-focused attention.
Inward-focused attention includes worrying and contemplation about things related to one’s self or patterns that have been linked to conditions involving psychological stress like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Based on the results of the fMRI scans, the participants’ reaction time when they listened to artificial sounds was slower compared to when they are listening to natural ones.
There were also slight differences in the heart rates of the participants that indicate a shift in the body’s autonomic nervous system response. Results suggest that nature sounds helped decrease the body’s sympathetic response, the one that causes the “fight-or-flight” feeling and increased most of the participants’ parasympathetic response, which is what helps the body relax and function in normal circumstances, also referred to as the “rest-digest” response.
It is worth noting that the results weren’t the same for everyone. Participants with the highest sympathetic responses, or possible high levels of stress, registered the biggest relaxation benefits from listening to the sounds of nature.
People with low levels of sympathetic response, on the other hand, showed a slight increase when listening to natural sounds as opposed to artificial sounds.
If you’re interested in finding more videos that can help with relaxion, definitely check out this second offering from Spectiv! This one is one of my favorites when it’s time to unwind and relax:
This 4K HRD relaxation video is titled Cascada del Chipitin, and there’s a full-length version available in the media library on the Spectiv website you can access.
Based on the results, the researchers recommend a walk in natural surroundings to anyone experiencing stress whether it’s high or not. A few minutes of calmness could be significantly beneficial to one’s health and overall well-being.
If an actual visit to a natural surrounding isn’t possible, look for a Roku or Apple TV app that will allow you to listen to nature sounds and play them through your workday to help you keep calm and improve your concentration.