What’s better than a walk in the woods?

Seeing the trees, feeling the wind in our hair, getting away from the hustle and bustle of our daily life. Studies show that getting out in nature boosts our mood and improves our overall well-being. 

But, as it turns out, it’s not just seeing the beauty of nature that’s important, but hearing it as well. 

Open Up Your Ears

A few months back, a group of scientists from the U.S. and Canada decided to study the advantages of nature using their ears instead of their eyes.

“There is plenty of evidence that spending time in natural areas is good for our health — but typically this research is done from a visual perspective (tree cover and other measures of ‘greenness’), but we were curious what the role is of sounds we hear in these spaces,” says Rachel Buxton, lead author on the study. 

The team looked at over 30 studies and compiled a mountain of data with some surprising results. 

They found that natural sounds can reduce stress, alleviate pain, improve mood, and boost cognitive function. 

Furthermore, the team found that different sounds yielded different benefits. For example, water sounds were the best for creating positive emotions and bird sounds worked really well for easing stress. 

There is some evidence that virtual sounds can have a similar benefit, but the effects are most likely reduced.

Their study is published in the PNAS journal available here

Kick It Up a Notch 

So, we know that seeing and hearing nature has some pretty awesome benefits. 

In theory, practicing mindfulness while in nature could take all of those proven benefits and kick them up a notch.

Think about it, if you are undistracted and fully present the number of sounds you hear and sights you see can dramatically increase. 

There are no studies to back this up just yet, but there are plenty of studies that show the benefits of “mindful walking” on its own. Combining the two most likely provides additional advantages. 

You can test this out yourself. You know how you normally feel after spending time in nature, right?

So, the next time you find yourself in the forest or beach or wherever, take 5 minutes and do a quick experiment. Try a quick mindfulness exercise or walking meditation and see if you notice a change in how you feel. 

Appreciating natural sounds could be the missing piece to your wellbeing.

For today’s challenge, we’ve created a quick mindfulness exercise designed specifically for being in nature. Check it right here.