Why Do the Sounds of Nature Benefit Health?

It's a fact that the sounds of nature induce a state of relaxation that combats stress. Discover why!
Why Do the Sounds of Nature Benefit Health?
Diego Pereira

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Diego Pereira.

Written by Carmen Martín

Last update: 31 May, 2023

Throughout the centuries and millennia, humans have enjoyed the sounds of nature. However, these have been largely overshadowed by the noises of the city. Because of this, many decide to move to fields, forests, beaches, and natural parks to listen to them.

And the fact of the matter is that the singing of birds, and the sound of the wind, the sea, and the rain, among other things, have a relaxing effect that is reflected at a physical and mental level. In fact, some studies support the benefits they bring to human health. In the following article, we’ll tell you more about it.

Health benefits of the sounds of nature

Humans have always been in contact with nature and its sounds. However, little was known about the benefits they bring to health. The truth of the matter is that being exposed to natural environments has therapeutic effects that are more valued than ever.

As we all know, living in urban contexts takes us away from nature and exposes us not only to annoying noises, but also to a hectic and stressful lifestyle. On the contrary, unwinding in green areas, close to rivers, and where it is possible to appreciate nature, improves our mood and reduces the negative effects of stress.

A review of studies reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences supports these claims. According to this publication, sounds such as whistling wind, birdsong, and gurgling streams have not only calming, but also therapeutic effects.

What does the study say?

The cited study focused on analyzing the health benefits of the sounds of nature. It was led by Rachel T. Burton, a Canadian biologist, who detailed the following:

“From an evolutionary perspective, humans are hardwired to pay attention to danger and safety signals. And an environment that is filled with natural sounds feels safe and allows us to let our guard down.”

It was determined that exposure to these sounds can decrease the rate of disease and mortality. It was even linked to decreased pain, improved mood, and better performance in cognitive tests.

The hypothesis suggests that they influence the brain and the autonomic nervous system, involved in emotion regulation and sleep control.

Other findings

Previous studies made similar findings. In research shared by Scientific Reports, it was observed that people who spent two hours a week outdoors in a natural environment (urban parks, forests, and beaches) reported better health and well-being.

A meta-analysis reported by the Lancet Public Health reported that people living near or in green spaces tended to have a longer life expectancy than those less exposed to these environments.

Relationship to emotions

Nature sounds not only improve physical health, but also contribute to emotional well-being. They help reduce irritation, anger, and even sadness.

One of their greatest influences is on stress. Listening to them promotes calmness and induces a state of relaxation. Therefore, outdoor activities are always recommended to release tension.

Noise pollution is harmful

People have become largely concentrated in urban centers. As society has progressed, we have built a lifestyle centered on big cities and towns.

In this way, we’re gradually moving away from nature. In addition, noise from transport, factories and even the population itself has taken over the environment. This is called “noise pollution”.

It influences behavior and well-being. It has been associated with multiple health problems, for example, hearing loss. However, it goes beyond that. It seems to increase the incidence of cardiovascular diseases, sleep disorders, nervous system disorders, among others.

For this reason, it’s important to give yourself time in natural environments whenever possible. It could even become a daily habit if there are green environments close to home or work.

Examples of nature sounds

These sounds can come from different sources. First, there are those from biological sources, such as birdsong. On the other hand, there are those coming from geology itself. For example, rain, waves, the whistling of the wind, river water, etc.

What to remember?

The sounds of natural environments have positive health benefits. They have been observed to help reduce stress, control emotions, and improve overall mood. They can even decrease the incidence of disease and lower mortality rates.

Because of this, it’s recommended that everyone dedicates some time in their lives to activities in nature. Learning to enjoy moments of solitude and contact with nature can help to achieve a healthier life.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Alvarsson, J. J., Wiens, S., & Nilsson, M. E. (2010). Stress recovery during exposure to nature sound and environmental noise. International journal of environmental research and public health, 7(3), 1036–1046. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2872309/
  • Buxton, R. T., Pearson, A. L., Allou, C., Fristrup, K., & Wittemyer, G. (2021). A synthesis of health benefits of natural sounds and their distribution in national parks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(14). https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2013097118
  • Jo, H., Song, C., Ikei, H., Enomoto, S., Kobayashi, H., & Miyazaki, Y. (2019). Physiological and Psychological Effects of Forest and Urban Sounds Using High-Resolution Sound Sources. International journal of environmental research and public health16(15), 2649. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6695879/
  • Passchier-Vermeer, W., & Passchier, W. F. (2000). Noise exposure and public health. Environmental health perspectives108 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), 123–131. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1637786/
  • Rojas-Rueda, D., Nieuwenhuijsen, M. J., Gascon, M., Perez-Leon, D., & Mudu, P. (2019). Green spaces and mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. The Lancet. Planetary health3(11), e469–e477. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31777338/
  • White, M. P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J., Wheeler, B. W., Hartig, T., Warber, S. L., Bone, A., Depledge, M. H., & Fleming, L. E. (2019). Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Scientific Reports, 9(1). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44097-3

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.