How Nature Sounds Positively Effect Mental Health
Have you ever stopped and listened to a waterfall? I mean, really listened. It sounds like a stadium erupted in applause and celebration. I like to think it’s nature’s way of giving God a standing ovation for His creativity in crafting the Earth.
When we stop and listen, magical things happen. Humans have a deeply rooted connection to the sounds of nature, which go back to a more primitive way of being. When the only thing soaring overhead were birds and our biggest concern was not getting eaten by a predator - we were able to hear literally everything. Primarily for survival, but I’d like to think they enjoyed the peaceful sounds of life at it’s best. While our primitive ways of life have long since died, evolution continued to use our audible sense as the way we remain oriented and alerted to our surroundings.
Modern-day, noise is possibly the most invasive form of pollution - one cannot escape it. It is even prevalent in some of the most rural areas of the world, thanks to air traffic.
As humans, we interact with our environmental surroundings through our five senses, so any pollution disrupts our way of being. Misophonia is present in a large percentage of the population, which is a condition in which negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions are triggered by specific sounds. Think - someone chewing too loudly, high-pitched voices or traffic as you walk down the sidewalk.
It comes as no surprise then, that the effect of negative sounds cause physiological stress reactions — whether we hear sound cognitively or subconsciously. Studies have shown that noise pollution has a critical effect on reading comprehension, memory and hyperactivity, and also aids in stress reactions that cause high blood pressure, cholesterol, and more. That is quite something.
So how do we aid our mental and physical stress to negative noise pollution? Enter, positive noise. Have you ever noticed that most soundscapes are nature sounds? Rainfall, thunder, rainforests, birds, ocean waves. In addition to our bodies responding to negative sounds, it also has a physiological response to nature; the sounds are evolutionary in our DNA and are calming for the soul. These sounds hold so much power and are a major component to healing our everyday stresses.
Behavioral health psychologist Joshua Smith believes we should “think about soundscapes as medicine” like a magic pill. “You can prescribe sounds or a walk in the park in much the way we prescribe exercise.” I encourage you to start each morning and end each night with a nature soundscape for at least 15 to 30 minutes. Notice how your body becomes more relaxed and peaceful as you silence the mind. Call it stress intervention, tree-hugger theology, or adventure therapy - it has been scientifically proven to lower our heart rates, and that’s just through the one audible sense. When combined with the effects of all the other senses, we can reduce symptoms of depression and other mental illness, heart disease and so much more.
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