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Soothing sounds of nature help boost mental health, study finds

The study conducted by researchers across the country and Canada found that water sounds and bird sounds had the greatest positive health impacts.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — In a year when so much relies on technology, the soothing sounds of nature are confirmed by science to improve our mental health.

Living in a state with such easy access to the outdoors makes Colorado special and a new Colorado State University (CSU) study shows our relationship with nature also makes us healthier.

"We actually have pretty good evidence that there’s major health benefits to being exposed to nature," said George Wittemyer a professor at CSU in the fish, wildlife and conversation biology department. "The evidence is really clear. Listening to natural sounds reduces stress, reduces annoyance and it’s correlated with positive health benefits."

Wittemyer is a co-author of a new study that analyzed how nature sounds impact the body. Researchers from universities across the country and Canada analyzed recordings from more than 60 national parks to determine what impacts our health the most.

The study found the sounds of water are most effective at improving emotions, while bird sounds help combat stress.

"I would strongly encourage people to take a moment to stop and listen. Experience the benefits of sound. I think it’s something we often overlook and take for granted," said Wittemyer. "We should be protecting them. We should be protecting the natural soundscape and ensure that we don’t inundate it with noise."

Rachel Buxton is an author of the study from Carleton University in Canada and a former postdoctoral student at CSU. She said sound can be just as beautiful as the sites we see, we just have to stop and listen.

"They’ve really gotten a lot of us through this pandemic. Spending time in parks, spending time listening to natural sounds, they’ve really gotten us through," said Buxton. "Close your eyes and listen to what’s around you. Listen to the birds singing and the wind rustling the leaves in the trees."

Researchers have been working with the National Park Service to help preserve natural soundscapes that can often get destroyed by the sounds of cars and airplanes. They hope to one day even put signs on trails reminding people to stop and listen.

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