Scientists have confirmed to listening to the sounds of nature can calm us down.
However, listening to these sounds won't always induce relaxation. In certain situations, listening to recordings of the natural sounds can cause a slight increase in stress levels.
Certain sounds have a remarkable ability to make us feel more relaxed. Taking a walk through a park or a hike through the woods can be relaxing, due in part to the sounds we hear. We even seek out artificial replicas or recordings of those sounds so we can listen to them through our speakers or earbuds. Researchers have found how and why these sounds affect us the way they do.
To test the effects of the sounds of nature, researchers asked participants to listen to recordings of natural sounds. The participants also listened to recordings of sounds from artificial environments. During these listening sessions, the researchers monitored the participants' brain activity and heart rate to see how their autonomic nervous system activity reacted to the recordings.
According to the study, when people listen to the sounds of nature, the brain focused its attention outward. This outward focus correlates to feelings of detached relaxation. However, listening to artificial sounds turned the brain's attention inward. This inward attention induced brain activity similar to anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
As mentioned above, recordings of natural sounds can slightly raise stress levels. Recordings of the sounds of nature also induce relaxation in the nervous system, while artificial sounds induce feelings of anxiety. Participants who felt high levels of stress experienced the greatest amount of bodily relaxation due to the recordings. However, when the participants were already in a state of relaxation while listening to the recordings, their stress levels increased slightly.
Of course, the study tackles a complicated matter, and interpretation of the results can be complicated as well. However, the study does contribute to a body of knowledge on the benefits of connecting with nature. But if there's anything to take away from this study, it's to go outside more. Listening to recordings of the sounds of nature is all well and good, but the real thing is always better.
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