10 Years of Research Reveals That Listening To Nature Can Improve Your Overall Health

Autumn Nature Trail

Photo: Stock Photos from Andrew Mayovskyy/Shutterstock

Have you ever found yourself in a meditative state, listening to the calming sounds of nature, only to have an aircraft pass by overhead? It can be an instant stresser. Man-made noises like this can interfere with your overall experience out in nature and cause hyperarousal, impacting your behavior, physiology, and fitness. Additionally, jarring noises can lead to high blood pressure and other ailments. These negative effects are also true for animals—their ability to communicate, survey their environment, and find food and mates is impacted. A growing number of studies explore noise’s negative effects on animals and humans alike, but could the same be true for the opposite? Could natural sounds actually have a positive impact?

A group of researchers from Michigan State University, Carleton University, and Colorado State University partnered with the National Park Service to analyze 18 studies on how natural sounds can impact human health. Their results, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that listening to existing noises in nature has incredibly positive effects, including a decrease in stress and pain, an improvement in cognitive performance, an enhancement in mood, and much more. The research even goes into further detail outlining which particular sounds might bring about specific benefits.

Why we have such a positive response to certain natural sounds isn’t completely clear, but researchers have their theories. To explore the possible health benefits of natural sounds, the team studied more than 10 years' worth of studies conducted around the world. Researchers found that activity in the brain’s default mode network differed in listening to natural sounds versus man-made sounds. Natural sounds resulted in outward focus of attention, whereas man-made sounds evoked an inward focus of attention—a pattern linked to stress.

Autumn Scene at the Lake

Photo: Stock Photos from Andrew Mayovskyy/Shutterstock

Buxton, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, conducted a statistical analysis with her team that synthesized results and found that bird sounds helped alleviate stress and annoyance. And water sounds enhanced positive emotions like tranquility, awareness, and relaxation. Buxton’s team encourages people to find inspiration in the Japanese practice of “forest bathing” by visiting a national park or participating in innovative programs, such as sound walks, designed to increase our appreciation of natural sounds that already exist. The Cathedral Grove in Muir Woods, California is designed as a serene place where visitors can appreciate nature quietly. So you can leave the Bluetooth speaker at home and let natural life provide the playlist.

But what if there is no escaping unwanted noise such as traffic? There’s good news as research suggests people can still benefit from natural sounds mixed with man-made noises. There’s evidence that natural sounds help mask the negative impacts of unwanted noise, such as cars, trains, and planes. Listening to natural sounds along with man-made noise has better outcomes for your well being than listening to the unnatural noises on their own. That ocean sounds playlist you listen to every night to drown out the street noise might be doing wonders for your overall health—more than you may even realize!

The benefits of nature sounds to physical and mental health are well-recorded. Studies have linked experiences in nature to have a positive impact on well-being with a measurable decrease in mental stress, an improvement in cognitive performance, and high levels of creativity, as well as improved sleep.

Listening to nature-made noise can decrease stress and pain, improve cognitive performance, enhance mood, and much more.

Sunset Over Mountain

Photo: Stock Photos from Yevhenii Chulovskyi/Shutterstock

h/t: [Smithsonian Magazine]

Related Articles:

New Study Finds That Dogs Can Help You Live Longer

Princeton Study Finds That Home Gardening Makes You Happier

Study Shows Spending Two Hours a Week in Nature Can Improve Health

Study Finds That Playing in Nature Boosts Children's Immune Systems

Claudicet Pena

Claudicet Pena is a Contributing Writer and Project Manager for My Modern Met. In 2005, she attended the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University where she studied Business and Marketing. Later in her career, she found herself teaching yoga and meditation full-time, earning the title “Best Yoga Teacher 2016” by Best Self Atlanta Magazine. Claudicet is currently based in Boston, combining her passions for art, writing, and business development. As a creative at heart, she devotes time to her own outlets of yoga, meditation, writing, drawing, and painting. Claudicet also shares her love of arts & culture with her daughter as they explore the city and travel abroad. Explore along with them on Instagram: @claudipena.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content