Article: The Sounds Of Nature Can Reduce Stress

By: Dr. Warren Willey

The sun is finally out and I can see blue sky peeking through the occasional clouds. Birds are chirping every morning, and the trees I see through my bathroom window are starting to bud. The weather’s finally changing and with it all the sounds and colors of nature are returning.

Unfortunately, my stress level and, if I may be so bold, your stress level, have not changed as drastically as the weather. There may be a little less now, as you don’t have to white-knuckle drive to work anymore on slick and occasionally unplowed roads, but stress is still very present.

Tree huggers like me have always found great relief and comfort in nature. Intuitively, we know that peace and tranquility are in those very colors and sounds I mentioned. My favorite place to relax and actually feel some peace is outside, watching and listening to all that nature has to offer. Now science supports this fact.

It seems that brain connectivity, when listening to man-made (artificial) sounds, shows an internally-directed attention focus similar to that seen when the brain is under attack via anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and/or depression.

However, when it hears sounds of nature such as birds chirping, a bubbling brook, a waterfall, wind through the trees, or the rustle of an Aspen, the brain exhibits signs of outwardly-directed attention focus.

This equates to brain and nervous system activity associated with relaxation and stress reduction. The study showed that those with the greatest amount of stress also found the greatest amount of stress relief with natural sounds. The weather has finally changed. With it, make a change in your stress levels — get outside and enjoy nature’s sounds and sights as often as possible this spring and summer.

Dr. Warren Willey is a Pocatello physician.