Listening to Nature Sounds and how they can help
Nature Sounds promote good health
Listening to nature sounds has been found to benefit us on a number of levels, biologically, psychologically, and neurologically. In other words, it can affect how we feel and how our bodies and brains function on a number of levels. Nature’s soothing sounds can reduce the body’s stress response, promote relaxation, and activate the regions of the brain associated with attention, focus, and creative thinking.
There have been many studies and test cases that measure the impact of nature sounds and tracking how we respond when listening to them. Once such study was conducted by the University of Sussex in 2017. The study discovered a link between playing natural sounds and the body’s flight-or-fright response. It revealed that listening to nature sounds can promote bodily relaxation and reduce physiological reactions to stressors.
The cognitive response* to the sounds of nature have been shown to increased productivity, improve our overall mood, and help us achieve a deeper sense of relaxation.
* The cognitive response refers to the mental processes and reactions triggered by stimuli, such as the sounds of nature, that involve perception, attention, memory, and other cognitive functions.
In the past we were surrounded by nature
But in our busy lives this isn’t always possible
What makes a good meditation sound?
Calming and soothing tones – gives our bodies and brains the signals for deep relaxation avoiding the stress response which can be triggered by loud or abrupt noises.
Non repetitive patterns – Our brains excel at recognizing patterns. When we repeatedly listen to looping sounds, our brains gradually memorize them. This can become bothersome and divert our attention, preventing us from fully immersing ourselves in the sound.
Minimal distractions or sudden changes – Meditating becomes easier when distractions are minimized, although it is possible to meditate anywhere. By meditating in a quiet environment or using high-quality headphones, distractions are reduced, allowing for more profound meditation experiences.
A slow and steady tempo – helps to slow down our breathing, our body functions and helps make way for a calmer state of mind.
Why Nature Sounds are great for meditation?
Interestingly natural and ambient sounds tick all these requirements.
Nature Sounds can be great for meditation or background relaxation because these sounds:
- Never repeat themselves
- Soothing and calming tones (with the right selected sounds)
- Encourage our minds to another place by association with environmental sounds – good for ‘thinking out of the box’.
- Communicate on a cellular level with our bodies
- Activates our rest and digest response in our bodies – counterbalancing the fight or flight response of our sympathetic nervous system.
- Reduces stress and anxiety – which is our natural cognitive response to these sounds
Natural environments encompass a variety of sonic elements, such as wildlife, water, wind, and weather. These elements harmoniously blend together, creating a distinctive soundscape exclusive to each environment.
The beauty of these sonic landscapes lies in their perpetual uniqueness, as they never repeat. They possess a perfect combination of sounds that can help detach your mind from mundane thoughts, allowing you to embrace higher thoughts and experiences.
For many people, the soothing sounds of nature are among the most relaxing sounds on Earth. Take a moment to consider what sound brings you the most relaxation, the one that helps quiet your thoughts and allows you to simply be at peace.
Does that sound by any chance involve a nature sound? I bet it does :o)
In fact, just reading about the gentle patter of raindrops against a window, the delicate melodies of birds in the morning, the crashing waves of the ocean on the beach, or the rustling of leaves in the wind … I’m feeling more relaxed already just thinking about these sounds. Is it the same for you?
I’m assuming it does, which just goes to show that our response to these natural sounds is deeply ingrained in our biology.
Dive a bit deeper
A ground breaking study conducted by Sussex University used MRI scanners to monitor participants brain and autonomic nervous system activity while they listened to sounds recorded from natural and artificial environments. The researchers found that the activity in the brain’s network changed depending on the different sounds playing in the background. ‘Natural sounds’ had the greatest affect on the bodily systems that control the ‘fight-or-flight’ and ‘rest-digest’ autonomic nervous systems, resulting in resting activity of the brain. To achieve this calming state the body activates the parasympathetic nervous system (a network of nerves) that relaxes your body by lowering blood pressure, promotes digestion and helps eliminate waste from our bodies.
What You Need to Meditate to Natural Sounds
A good starting point ;o) – there are lots of videos on YouTube and playlists of channels like Spotify which are a good place to start.
Speakers or Headphones
For a more immersive experience you might like to try headphones, which are also a good way to create your own little space of zen to tune out of any surrounding distractions.. Headphones will definitely make it easier for you to focus on pure nature sounds.
A Safe Space
It’s worth making sure you’ve chosen a safe space away from any possible interruptions or things that might cause you to have to move. A safe place where you can comfortable site or lie down is ideal as you might end up with your eyes closed and deep in relaxation.
Choosing Nature Sounds
You literally have an entire planet’s worth of sound to choose from!
Quiet spaces are frequently perceived and characterized as a getaway from the bustling city life. Studies indicate that the brain undergoes physical changes when exposed to nature sounds, modifying its connections to decrease the body’s fight-or-flight response while enhancing the brain’s resting activity.
A few examples…
Rain Sounds, Thunderstorm Sounds, Ocean Sounds, Underwater, Dolphin & Whale Sounds, Forest Sounds, Bird Song, River Sounds, Cricket Sounds, Campfire Sounds, Wind Sounds
When choosing nature sounds it’s worth being conscious of which sounds or places you are already familiar with. With the power of association your brain will have a more enhanced experience and quicker response time with these sounds you are familiar with, leading to improved focus, concentration, and overall performance.
Vice versa, with unfamiliar nature sounds you may not more easily induce the same level of relaxation response.
Incorporating Nature Sounds into daily routines
Incorporating nature sounds into daily routines can be a simple and effective practice to enhance overall well-being. Begin your day by waking up to the gentle melodies of birdsong or flowing water, setting a positive tone for the morning. During breaks or lunchtime, take short walks in natural surroundings if possible, or alternatively, listen to recorded nature sounds to experience moments of relaxation and connection with nature.
Playing nature soundtracks in the background while working or studying can promote focus and creativity. Finally, before bedtime, unwind with the calming sounds of nature, even if you don’t have access to open green spaces, to facilitate a peaceful transition into a restful night’s sleep, allowing you to experience the restorative benefits of nature throughout the day.
If you have access to outside green spaces then there are a few simple things you can do to help get the most out of these nature sounds that surround you. Here are a few Tips when exploring nature sounds.
Things to look (or hear) out for when selecting headphones for meditation:
Wired vs. Wireless – One thing to consider with a cheap pair of wired headphones is that the wires rubbing together or rubbing against your clothes can create a low frequency noise, which can be distracting. Wireless headphones offer more freedom of movement especially if you want to practise a bit of movement like Yoga or sketches, during your meditation practice.
Comfort Levels – The most important factor as you want to forget you are wearing headphones. It’s a personal choice but it’s worth considering over-ear headphones with padded ear cups for the most comfortable meditation headphones. But you might prefer earbuds style headphones.
Noise Cancellation – If your surroundings are noisy and distracting, such as a city or in the office, it would be worth getting some headphones with noise cancellation. This is a useful feature that helps reduce outside noises, either by the design of the ear cup (passive cancellation) or it measures the outside noise and adjusts the sound (active cancellation). As a general guide the headphones will say the amount of cancellation in negative decibels, the larger the negative number the more noise cancellation you can expect.