By Dylan Stuntz, American Forests
Headphones are so ubiquitous today, it’s common to see people walking by with earbuds in, going about their days listening to their favorite music or the latest podcast. If you fall into that camp, consider disconnecting the next time you venture outside, because there are a variety of mental, physical and social benefits to just listening to the sounds of the natural world.
YOU’LL BE LESS STRESSED
Researchers recently conducted a study in which participants listened to silence, Mozart and nature sounds, while recording self-reported stress levels, pulse rate and muscle tension. They found that after just seven minutes of nature sounds, participants reported lower stress levels along with a measurable decrease in muscle tension and pulse rate. Surely you can find seven minute out of your day!
Another study was conducted measuring self-reported stress and physical stress symptoms after doing difficult arithmetic problems, and found similar results. Participants listening to nature calmed down quicker than those listening to a variety of other sounds. The next time you find yourself stymied by a difficult problem? Go take a walk in a natural setting and let the sounds wash over you — it may help you calm down both mentally and physically.
IT CAN HELP YOU PAY ATTENTION
In a similar vein, scientists at Brighton and Sussex Medical School measured brain activity while listening to nature sounds, and they found an increase in brain activity associated with attention span. A different study found that birdsong was reported as the most effective sound to restore attention. It’s been found that nature sounds can help reduce time needed to recover from “attention fatigue,” which refers to the mental exhaustion that happens when you’ve been focused on one task for too long. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted or just simply unable to focus, a bit of time in nature can work wonders.
IT CONNECTS YOU WITH THE NATURAL WORLD
Other than the health benefits, there’s also the untold benefit of simply being present in nature and aware of all the life around you. There’s a subtle piece of music being conducted every day, and you can hear it with the wind in the trees, the babbling of a brook or the melody of a songbird. To be outside and hear such a unique symphony, which only exits in that specific moment in time, there’s something magical about that. Your playlist won’t go anywhere, but to just take a walk in the woods and truly listen, that’s a playlist that can never be found anywhere else.
There’s music found outside that calms you down, makes you more attentive and plays 24/7. It doesn’t require a subscription, won’t deplete your phone battery and can be found almost anywhere. All you need to do is listen.