Nature sound therapy for stress relief mind relaxing music
Music can have a profound effect on both the emotions and the body. Faster music can make you feel more alert and concentrate better. Upbeat music can make you feel more optimistic and positive about life. A slower tempo can quiet your mind and relax your muscles, making you feel soothed while releasing the stress of the day. Music is effective for relaxation and stress management.
Research confirms these personal experiences with music. Current findings indicate that music around 60 beats per minute can cause the brain to synchronize with the beat causing alpha brainwaves (frequencies from 8 – 14 hertz or cycles per second). This alpha brainwave is what is present when we are relaxed and conscious. To induce sleep (a delta brainwave of 5 hertz), a person may need to devote at least 45 minutes, in a relaxed position, listening to calming music. Researchers at Stanford University have said that “listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication.” They noted that music is something that almost anybody can access and makes it an easy stress reduction tool.
So what type of music reduces stress the best? A bit surprising is that Native American, Celtic, Indian stringed-instruments, drums, and flutes are very effective at relaxing the mind even when played moderately loud. Sounds of rain, thunder, and nature sounds may also be relaxing particularly when mixed with other music, such as light jazz, classical (the “largo” movement), and easy listening music. Since with music we are rarely told the beats per minute, how do you choose the relaxation music that is best for you? The answer partly rests with you: You must first like the music being played, and then it must relax you. You could start by simply exploring the music on this web page. Some may relax you, some may not. Forcing yourself to listen to relaxation music that irritates you can create tension, not reduce it. If that happens, try looking for alternatives on the internet or consult with Counseling Service staff for other musical suggestions. It is important to remember that quieting your mind does not mean you will automatically feel sleepy. It means your brain and body are relaxed, and with your new calm self, you can then function at your best in many activities.
Experiment now. Experience a “sound bath” and let the music carry you away
The links below each open relaxing musical selections in YouTube.
A Moment of Peace Meditation
Aneal & Bradfield, “Heaven and Earth Spirits” track from Life & Love). Lovely contemporary piano music with accompanying instruments and nature scenes.
Echoes of Time
C. Carlos Nakai from the Canyon Trilogy. Serene Native American flute music, with a picture of Nakai backlit by the sun at the Grand Canyon.
The Winding Path
Ken Kern from The Winding Path. Highly rated, beautiful piano music with accompanying instruments with pictures of exquisite flowers and plants.
Classical Indian Music for Healing and Relaxing
Gayatri Govindarajan, “Pure Deep Meditation” track. Lovely and rhythmic music played on the veena, the most ancient of the Indian plucked-instruments, with nature scenes.
Angels of Venice
Angels of Venice from Music for Harp, Flute and Cello. Classical with 3 instruments with nature pictures.
“Spirit Vision,” (David & Steve Gordon. Serene and lovely contemporary Native American informed-drumming music utilizing Taos Log Drum and Incan Pan along with other instruments and ocean/forest nature scenes.
Aneal & Bradfield from Light & Love. Reflective but strong contemporary music utilizing various instruments and occasional humming voices with colorful oscillating fractals
Spa Relaxing Music
Tranquil contemporary instrumental with piano and a fixed candle light.
Relaxation Music: 1-Hour Meditation Candle
Serene contemporary instrumental with piano and one flickering candle.
Dan Gibson. Nature sounds and instrumental, tranquil sleep music.
Marconi Union. The sounds on this video are carefully arranged harmonies, rhythms, and bass lines that help slow a listener’s heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and lower levels of the cortisol stress hormone.
Do you know that feeling of clear-headed calm that washes over you when you listen to the water babbling down a stream or leaves rustling in the wind? Researchers said they’d pinpointed a scientific explanation for why sounds from nature have such a restorative effect on our psyche: According to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports in March 2017, sounds of nature physically alter our brains’ connections, reducing our body’s natural fight-or-flight instinct.
Sounds of Nature and Relaxation
Natural sounds and green environments have been linked with relaxation and well-being for hundreds of years. But unique to this study is that it was one of the first to use brain scans, heart-rate monitors, and behavioral experiments to suggest a physiological cause for these effects.
To investigate the connection between the brain, the body, and background noise, the researchers recruited 17 healthy adults to receive functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans while listening to a series of five-minute soundscapes of natural and artificial environments.
Participants also performed a task to measure their attention and reaction time during each soundscape. Their heart rates were monitored as well to indicate changes in their autonomic nervous systems—the system of organs involved in involuntary processes such as breathing, blood pressure, temperature, metabolism, and digestion.
When they studied the fMRI results, the researchers noticed that activity in the brain’s default mode network—an area involved in mind wandering and “task-free” states of wakefulness—varied depending on the background sounds being played. Specifically, listening to artificial sounds was associated with patterns of inward-focused attention, while nature sounds prompted more external-focused attention.
Inward-focused attention can include worrying and rumination about things specific to one’s self—patterns that have been linked to conditions involving psychological stress (including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder). Participants’ reaction times were slower when they listened to artificial sounds than natural ones.
Slight differences in heart rate were also detected, indicating a shift in the body’s autonomic nervous system response. Overall, nature sounds were associated with a decrease in the body’s sympathetic response (which causes that “fight-or-flight” feeling) and an increase in parasympathetic response—the one that helps the body relax and function in normal circumstances and is sometimes referred to as the “rest-digest” response.
Those results weren’t the same for everyone: People who started the study with the highest sympathetic responses (suggesting high levels of stress) registered the biggest relaxation benefits from the nature clips. People who started with low levels of sympathetic response, on the other hand, actually had a slight increase when listening to natural versus artificial sounds.
How To Incorporate Nature Sounds Into Your Daily Life
Lead author Cassandra Gould van Praag, PhD, a research fellow at the University of Sussex, said the study’s findings might have real-world impacts—especially for people with high-stress levels. “I would definitely recommend a walk in natural surroundings to anyone, whether they’re currently feeling frazzled or not,” Gould van Praag told Health via email. “Even a few minutes of escape could be beneficial.”
Gould van Praag said the research had inspired her to get outdoors for breaks or listen to nature sounds using an app throughout her workday. “I really did find the downloaded tracks helpful for those times when I couldn’t get away from my desk,” Gould van Praag said. However, Gould van Praag added that it took some time to find an app “that was right for me,” so Gould van Praag didn’t recommend rushing into any software or noise-machine purchases without trying them first.
Once you settle on a nature sound you find pleasant, Gould van Praag said it might also help improve your focus and concentration. In the study, participants performed best at “attention tasks” when listening to sounds that were considered familiar compared with unfamiliar ones. “I think this supports the importance of finding an environment or sound machine that is right for the individual,” Gould van Praag said. “Rainforest noises might only have a strong relaxing effect if you are already very familiar with rainforests!”
Finding that ideal background soundscape could potentially help to promote better rest, as well. “Poor sleep causes autonomic stress (the fight-or-flight response), and autonomic stress causes poor sleep,” Gould van Praag said. “This would suggest that anything which can reduce the fight-or-flight response may be beneficial to improved quality of sleep.” Gould van Praag added that minimizing artificial noise—like street traffic—may also be helpful.