Studies suggest nature sounds improve your health
A new study by researchers at Carleton University, Michigan State University and Colorado State University, in conjunction with the US National Park Service has found that the sounds of nature are not only pleasant, but can have a variety of health benefits for humans – though finding these sounds isn't always easy.
If there's one thing that makes life more enjoyable, it's being able to commune with nature. A walk in the woods can be both stimulating and soothing at the same time, while the mind is given a chance to wander from the stresses of the day. Now a metastudy of 36 publications suggests that nature sounds are not only a boon for budding Shelleys and Wordsworths, but they can have positive effects on people's health. Most of the studies analyzed took place in a lab or hospital setting and encompassed 11 different countries.
The new metastudy, led by Rachel Buxton of Carleton University and which involved analysis of sound recordings from 251 sites at 66 US national parks, found that in areas where there are high levels of nature sounds and low artificial ones, listeners showed improved health, decreased pain, improved mood, enhanced cognitive performance, increased positive emotions, and lower stress and annoyance. In addition, different sounds had different effects, with water sounds proving best for improving positive emotions and health outcomes, while bird sounds helped subjects to overcome stress and annoyance.
The study is something of a flip side to the familiar problem of noise pollution. While many sounds associated with modern industrial society can result in annoyance, stress, and even damage one's health, the new study suggests natural sounds can have the opposite effect.
The problem is that these sets of sounds are not neatly separated. Even national parks, which in the United States cover over 84 million acres, it can be difficult to find areas where nature sounds are pristine. As a result, the park service, especially near cities where there is high visitor traffic, is working to reduce noise and to conserve soundscapes as well as the native flora and fauna by establishing sound walks for listening and encouraging visitors to be quiet.
"In so many ways the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of nature for human health," says Buxton. "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."
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Source: Carleton University