We have previously explored the link between nature and the brain from the perspective of being immersed in nature and the visual effect of looking at nature but it recently occurred to me that I have never really looked into the effects of listening to sounds of nature. Perhaps it is because I already know at some subconscious level that the sounds of nature can be pretty powerful. I don’t need any body of research to tell me that I ought to listen to sounds from nature because I can already feel the effects whenever I listen to audio tracks incorporating sounds from nature. Nevertheless, out of academic curiosity, I looked it up…
The Benefits of Listening to Sounds of Nature
According to a study from International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, nature sounds help us recover more quickly from psychological stress. Nature sounds also help to boost mood:
Nature sounds, recorded or live, may be beneficial to our health. Participants who listened to a recording of a natural soundscape showed greater mood recovery after a disturbing event than those who listened to the same soundscape but with added human-made sounds, such as voices and cars. Natural soundscapes can provide restorative benefits independent of those produced by visual stimuli.
133 participants were measured at baseline and then given a disturbing video to watch. After the video, all participants were negatively affected. The participants were divided into 4 groups and each group was given the following sounds to listen to:
- natural sounds only (recorded by the United States National Park Service)
- natural sounds mixed with human voices
- natural sounds mixed with motorized noises
Only the group that has listened to natural sounds only recovered their original mood at baseline while no change was observed for the other three groups.
During three sessions in the same room, the researchers asked 12 participants to complete a test requiring sustained attention. Each session featured a different soundscape in the background:
- office sounds muffled by white noise
- office sounds masked with the sound of flowing water in a mountain stream
- office sounds with no masking noise
Results: When listening to the natural sounds, the workers not only performed better on the task, but also reported feeling more positive about their environment than they did in the other sessions.
Limitations to Consider
All studies were small and they don’t take into consideration the full range of nature sounds. For instance, the effect of listening to the sound of thunderstorms will vary depending on the individual listening. Different sounds from nature will also affect each individual differently and what works better for one may not be as effective for another. Some personal experimentation may be required to identify what works best for each of us.
Up until recently, I have been using recordings of nature sounds until I discovered Relaxing Melodies. Intended as a sleep aid, this app allows you to select sounds and melodies that you like and combine them to create a mix. You can adjust the volume of each sound individually so it’s just the way you like it. They also recommend it for relaxing at the spa, exercising during yoga or relaxation classes, massage sessions, or when taking a nap! For parents, this might just be the perfect app for helping your baby fall asleep.
- 108 outstanding high quality ambient sounds.
- 12 brainwave beats including Binaural & Isochronic frequencies.
- Mix up to 12 sounds all together!
- Background support – listen to your mixes while using other apps on your device.
- Individual volume adjustment for sounds and melodies.
- Includes 9 off-the-shelf favorites for an easy startup.
- Create, Save, Name, Sort and Replay your favorite mixes easily.
- Timer system allows you to set a duration to your favorite mixes so that you will automatically exit the app after a period of time so you don’t have to leave it playing through the night. You can also use the alarm clock to help you wake up in the morning.
- Enjoy an unique and beautiful interface for an easy selection of sounds.
- Blog access to tips & articles from experts to help you understand and improve your health.
- Discovery Mode – search & share your mixes with a community of users!
- Music Player – add songs from your own music library into your relaxing mixes.
This is the best app I have seen that incorporates ambient sounds, simple guided meditation tracks, binaural beats and isochronic tones, and any music track of your choice! It is exactly what I’ve always wished I could do with my other meditation/ambient sounds/binaural beats audio tracks. As I mentioned earlier, different ambient sounds will affect each individual differently so this app allows you to experiment and identify which combination of sounds works best for you in your given scenario – e.g. if you’re trying to fall asleep, or if you need to work on a project.
With the positive benefits of meditation, the potential beneficial effects of isochronic tones, and the positive effects of listening to nature sounds, combining all three into an effective mix would be like putting your mind on steroids. I only wish I had discovered this app earlier!