Why Nature Sounds Help You Relax, According to Science

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Have you ever felt more relaxed after hearing water babbling down a stream, or the rustling of leaves in the wind? According to researchers, there is a scientific explanation as to why sounds in nature have a sort of restorative effect on our psyche. Research shows that these sounds physically alter the connections in our brains, in turn reducing the body’s natural fight-or-flight instincts.

For hundreds of years, natural sounds and green environments have been linked to feelings of relaxation and well-being. New research published in Scientific Reports, is the first to focus on this phenomenon using brain scans, heart rate monitors, and behavior experiments to determine a physiological cause.

The researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School in England recruited 17 adults to receive MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans while listening to a series of short, five-minute soundscapes consisting of natural and manmade environments. As the tests were underway, the participants also had to measure their attention and reaction time. Their heart rates were monitored to indicate any changes in their autonomic nervous systems. These are the system of organs used in involuntary bodily processes such as breathing, body temperature, blood pressure, digestion and metabolism.

The results showed the researchers that activity in the brain’s default mode network (an area involved in mind wandering and day dreaming), varied depending on which background noise was being played. It appears that artificial sounds were associated with patterns of inward focused attention while hearing natural sounds encouraged external-focused attention. Natural sounds were associated with a decrease in the body’s sympathetic response (the “fight-or-flight” feeling) and an increase in parasympathetic response—the one that helps the body relax and function in normal circumstances.

The individuals in the study who registered as having the highest stress levels responded positively to the natural sounds they experienced, with their heart rate lowered while listening. After completing the study, researchers have been recommending to those with high stress levels to talk a walk in natural surroundings, stating that even a few minutes could be helpful.

Finding the perfect background noise to lull you to sleep or relax you after a bad day can be difficult, but we can help. The Hearing Shop, an excellent source for hearing health related products, offers an excellent Sound and Sleep Adaptive Sound Therapy System. Designed to provide the most realistic and natural sounds to help you sleep or relax at an affordable price. Rest, relax, and sleep well.