Written by Angela Silva
The suggestion “get some fresh air” may carry more weight than we realize. Sure it feels nice to step outside of a stuffy, crowded room or to roll down the car window when we’re feeling a bit sick, but do the sounds and settings of nature actually offer any benefits to us?
Researchers are saying yes.
Studies have been conducted to find out just what a little bit of outdoor time can really do for you. The biggest link between nature sounds and health seem to be related to anxiety and stress management. One study exposed its subjects to an unsettling video to create a physiological stress response, and then randomly assigned them to listen to either nature sounds or man-made sounds (voices, traffic, etc.).
Those who listened to nature sounds returned to their normal physiological levels far quicker than those who listened to the man-made sounds. This study suggests that stress relief and management can be as simple as listening the birds outside.
But what if finding a serene spot in nature is difficult for your current situation? It’s not easy to escape the sights and sounds of the city if you live in a high-rise building and work in a busy office. Turns out, just listening to nature sounds without actually BEING in nature can deliver stress and mood benefits, as well. Not only do they help with stress, but another study conducted by the Acoustical Society of America found that listening to nature sounds in the office can actually help increase productivity. Using three different sounds—white noise, nature sounds, and unmasked regular office noise—workers were asked to complete a series of tasks that required attention and memory. Those who listened to nature sounds performed better on the task and also reported feeling a more positive attitude toward their environment.
Here are some suggestions for adding some nature into your daily life to reduce stress and anxiety.
1. Take a walk every day.
Even if it’s just on your lunch break, find the closest park or even non-busy sidewalk and walk along the trees. Listen to the sounds and try to clear your mind.
2. Download a nature sounds playlist.
Obviously not all nature sounds are as calm and relaxing as others. Thunderstorms and mountain lions may not invite the warmest of feelings, but you can find lots of different nature sounds on YouTube, last.fm, or other media streaming sites or apps. Make sure not to listen to it too loud, though.
3. Plan a weekly outing.
Take some time to research what natural wonders are in your area. Hiking to a beautiful waterfall or fishing on a calm lake may be just what you need to unwind from a hectic week. Use this as an opportunity to find new talents and interests. Perhaps there’s a local group of bird watchers or mountain biking enthusiasts who’d love to have a new member.
4. Visit a nearby natural museum.
A great way to feel connected with nature is through learning more about it. Even if you live far enough away that camping or hiking isn’t realistic, just head to a natural history museum or nature center to surround yourself with plant and tree specimens, fossils, and animals.