We are constantly surrounded by so much man-made noise that we forget the symphony nature can provide for us. From the chirping of birds to the calming sound of running water, nature is its own orchestra. But often we forget with the latest technology always capturing our attention. We don’t always take a moment to sit back and enjoy the natural sounds around us. We have grown accustomed to pay attention to the ding of Snapchat notifications or an alert to “BeReal” instead of the natural sounds of the wind blowing, water running, or birds chirping. These sounds are often drowned out by the honking of cars, motors being revved, and the sounds of consumerism and technology.
According to Pena (2021), “Man-made noises like this can interfere with your over-all experience out in nature and cause hyperarousal, impacting your behavior, physiology, and fitness. There have been countless studies exploring noise’s negative effects on animals and humans alike, but could the opposite hold true? Are there benefits hidden behind nature’s sounds?”.
A number of studies have found that there are potential cognitive benefits from experiencing nature sounds. For example, Van Hedger and colleagues (2019) conducted studies that showcased a connection between noise levels and health, with noise pollution (traffic, phones, engines, etc.) related to greater amounts of stress and distraction leading to chronic learning and attention problems. In their test of Stress Reduction Theory, 65 individuals were subjected to natural sounds or urban sounds (traffic sounds, café ambiance, machinery) and later tested to see whether experiences with nature lowered stress levels and restored attention. They found that many people preferred the natural soundscapes over the Urban sounds and that natural sounds were related to better cognitive retention. Brief interactions with natural sounds proved to be beneficial to the performance of cognitively demanding tasks. There are benefits to listening to natural sounds and learning to use them in order to remained focused, but how else can natural sounds affect us?
Certain sounds might bring peace to some, while others might find themselves overstimulated by the sounds around them. We may not think about it often, but the sounds we hear can help form an attachment or link to our environment. We can either associate the place with negative or positive feelings. The places we study at or work at might not be associated with the most positive feelings. We might associate these places with stress because we are often overstimulated in these environments. There may be times when we wish for silence and a pause in time.
What better place to step away from our busy and hectic environments then a park! Nature can be a therapeutic resource! Franco and colleagues (2017) found that escaping noise to enjoy natural sounds is an important reason to visit a park . In their study, 91% of Americans cited enjoyment of quiet and natural sounds as a reason to visit national parks and 72% believed that a reason to protect national parks is to preserve the natural quiet and nature sounds, suggesting there to be some benefits. Our national parks provide some of our greatest natural soundscapes, but they are being threatened by to the rapid loss of sound producing organisms and the intrusion of human-made noise.
Sounds of nature are being overpowered by noise and we often don’t realize the negative effect noise causes on our well-being, stress, annoyance anger, and high blood pressure. It’s important to find a moment of meditation and enjoy the music nature provides for us. A moment of peace from the hectic and constant movement of today’s life and we might find ourselves less stressed and calmer in the presence of nature’s sounds and its benefits.
Buxton, R. T., Pearson, A. L., Allou, C., Fristrup, K., & Wittemyer, G. (2021). A synthesis of health benefits of natural sounds and their distribution in national parks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(14), e2013097118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2013097118
Franco, L. S., Shanahan, D. F., & Fuller, R. A. (2017). A Review of the Benefits of Nature Experiences: More Than Meets the Eye. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(8), 864. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14080864
Pena, C. (2021, May 4). 10 Years of Research Reveals That Listening To Nature Can Improve Your Overall Health. My Modern Met. https://mymodernmet.com/nature-sounds-health-study/
SoulAdvisor. (2021, August 17). The Healing Sounds Of Nature. Www.souladvisor.com. https://www.souladvisor.com/your-sanctuary/article/healing-sounds-of-nature
Van Hedger, S. C., Nusbaum, H. C., Clohisy, L., Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., & Berman, M. G. (2018). Of cricket chirps and car horns: The effect of nature sounds on cognitive performance. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 26(2), 522–530. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-018-1539-1