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Thursday, February 29, 2024

The sounds of nature make us feel better

A new study confirms the beneficial effects of noises in a natural environment: they relieve stress and even physical pain

If we feel better after a day, or just a few hours, in the midst of nature , it is also thanks to its noises . The chirping of birds, the lapping of the sea waves, the leaves moved by the wind, have a beneficial effect on our health: they reduce stress, improve cognitive performance, are even able to relieve pain and give us back a smile. This is demonstrated by a new study conducted by some American and Canadian universities just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . The researchers listened to sound recordings from 221 locations in 68 US national parkstrying to understand the differences in perception between the areas where natural sounds predominate and those where these sounds are disturbed by human noise, and then compared the results with those of 36 other studies that investigated the same topic.

The analysis confirmed that one feels better overall in environments less disturbed by man-made sounds and has also allowed us to understand in detail what kind of effects a certain natural sound causes. Thus, for example, scientists have realized that the noise of birds is particularly effective in relieving stress and fatigue , while that of water is the most effective of all in giving a feeling of total well-being because it has greater beneficial consequences on so-called “positive affects”: that is, it gives a feeling of profound tranquility. It is no coincidence, as the authors of the study reflect, that there are so many fountains in our cities: they mask the chaos of traffic and increase the pleasantness and positive perception of urban green. Obviously what makes the real difference is the entire sensory experience : if, in addition to listening to a natural noise (as can now be done thanks to many applications), you can touch and smell nature, the effect is amplified. “You can get some benefits just by listening, but the whole sensory experience makes the difference. It’s always best to get out when you can, ” Rachel Buxton , a researcher in the Department of Biology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, who participated in the research , told USNews , commenting on the study .

The reason for the power of natural sound?

It is an ancestral reason, according to scientists: man was born to live in harmony with nature, responding to the signals of danger or safety that it gives with its noises . “They make us feel safe. On the contrary, an acoustic environment that does not have a natural sound can perhaps be an indicator that something is wrong and this can lead to a state of alertness and therefore of stress, ”said the scientist.

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The aim of the study is also to inspire new urban architectures so that green becomes a priority to improve the quality of life of people in the city, and in general to protect biodiversity : overbuilding and pollution endanger flora and fauna, and therefore also these precious soundscapes.

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