Quirks & Quarks

Nature's sounds improve well-being — reducing stress and even pain

Listen: Immerse yourself in a natural soundscape while learning about how those nature sounds benefit your health

City-dwellers can also reap the benefits of nature sounds even with traffic noise in the background

Listening to nature sounds, even if you're in an urban park like this woman in Vancouver, can improve your health and mood. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press)

Feeling a little better now that spring has sprung and the birds are back with their songs to wake you up?

It's not just the warmth and welcome sunlight after a long hard winter that's making you feel better, the sounds that come with spring — the rushing water and birds chirping — are also affecting your health and well-being for the better.

In a new paper in the journal PNAS, scientists reviewed and conducted a meta-analysis of dozens of studies and found that natural sounds can have wide-ranging positive effects.

Listening to natural soundscapes can increase your feelings of tranquillity while decreasing your feelings of annoyance, reduce stress, decrease your heart rate, improve mood cognitive functions and even reduce pain.

Rachel Buxton, a conservation scientist at Carleton University and lead author of the study, spoke with Quirks & Quarks host, Bob McDonald. 

The pandemic, which shut so many people inside their homes, has led to an increased appreciation of nature and bird-watching in Central Park, New York City, which may help reduce stress, according to a new study. (Seth Wenig / AP Photo / File)

She said that even listening to recorded nature sounds were shown to have benefits, as does listening to nature sounds in urban parks where sounds of traffic are also present.

Sounds of water, like waves lapping on a shoreline, or running water in a river or waterfalls, have the biggest impact on our health and positive feelings. Bird sounds had the greatest effect on alleviating stress.

If you find yourself out and about, it might be wise to heed the research and take a moment to immerse yourself in whatever natural sounds are within earshot.

Research shows that listening to sounds of water can positively affect your health and feelings of well-being. (Sonya Buyting)

Produced and written by Sonya Buyting

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