The next time you feel your concentration plummeting, or a rotten mood coming on, do yourself a favor and listen to sounds like this:
(click play below to for an immediate boost)
Scientists from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York have found that the sounds of nature — from babbling brooks to tweeting birds to the wind in the trees — helps us concentrate, de-stress, and boosts our mood.
The researchers are currently testing whether substituting nature sounds for white noise in an office sound system will improve employees’ mood and productivity, but this ongoing effort is taking place due to their previous research — which discovered that listening to natural sounds, as opposed to machine-based sounds or the sounds of silence, can help people focus.
The type of audio being used in their trial sounds like a stream of flowing water, a.k.a a babbling brook, since the researchers feel it can block conversations from across the room and yet not be a distraction in a working environment. Lead study author Jonas Braasch, an acoustician and musicologist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, says that listening to nature in the office is similar to the way a company may choose their location near an ocean so their employees can be exposed to the sounds of the ocean.
“Everyone would say that’s a great employer,” he said in a formal statement. "We’re just using sonic means to achieve that same effect.”
Babbling brooks — the ultimate productivity boost? (Photo: Getty Images)
Braasch and team also believe the soothing sounds found in nature can also have a positive effect on the mood of those who are confined to a hospital bed. “You could use it to improve the moods of hospital patients who are stuck in their rooms for days or weeks on end,” he said.
This current research is not the first to link what we hear to how we feel. A Swedish study found that physiological problems, like elevated blood pressure and heart rate, caused by stress can fade faster when listening to pleasant nature sounds. Additional research, which was published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, concluded that nature-based sounds provided a health boost to patients who where suffering from high levels of anxiety and agitation while on a ventilator.
“Although the exact mechanism is unknown—such as, how and where in the brain the perception of nature sounds, such as a babbling brook, gentle wind, or ocean waves, elicits the relaxation response—there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that suggests for many people, these sounds can be used to induce feelings of calmness when in states of mild everyday non-pathological stress,” Edward A. Roth, MM, MT-BC,Director of the Brain Research and Interdisciplinary Neurosciences (BRAIN) Lab at Western Michigan University, tells Yahoo Health.
He adds that the emotional, mental and physical healing may take place as soon as we are surrounded by the sounds that make us feel good. “One aspect of the literature that seems to be clear is that the response is based on an individual’s preferences, similar to the use of music for relaxation purposes,” he explains. “What one person finds relaxing, another may find stimulating or even aggravating, so people would need to experiment with the sounds that work best for them specifically. Perhaps sounds that they associate with pleasant memories, such as relaxing time at the beach, a walk through a forest, a crackling fire for warmth in the winter time, and so on.”
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