Why You Should Listen To Nature Sounds

Water flowing over pebbles in a stream, birds calling to each other in a forest, the wind blowing across a pasture, waves lapping at the beach, a waterfall thundering down… When feeling tired, stressed or distracted, you’ve probably used nature sounds to soothe your nerves or help you focus. It’s a growing trend, especially among school-going children. The soothing sounds help relieve the stress of exams, and since they’re listening to these sounds they don’t notice external disturbances and can, therefore, focus better. It’s like meditation, except easier to perform, and you already got the tools to get started

But how does listening to natural sounds help you relax? Researchers atBrighton and Sussex Medical Schooltested 17 people to find out. The process was simple, participants listened to five-minute clips of natural sounds while their brain activity was measured with an MRI scanner. In addition, their breathing, heart rate, attention span and reaction time were measured as well. Their findings were interesting, and shed light on how these sounds help reduce anxiety. Participants listening to nature sounds had outward-directed attention, whereas those listening to artificial sounds had inward-directed attention. What does this mean? In a nutshell, when you’re worrying about yourself, your appearance, your abilities, your attention is directed inwards, at yourself. When you’re thinking about others or the world in general, your attention is outward-directed. Inward-directed attention often leads to rumination and over-thinking, so it’s usually a cause of stress and worrying

The researchers also found changes in the heart rate and autonomic nervous system response. In general, the changes were bigger in people who started out with high stress levels. These findings state hard facts, and cement what people have believed for years. Now that we know nature-based sounds do in fact help, let’s go over some ways in which they do. They aren’t just for stress relief, they have many other benefits as well

1. They help you focus

Whether it’s work, studies or particularly boring paperwork, if you need to block out external distractions and improve your focus, natural sounds are a great solution. They’re more-or-less like white noise in this regard, caf sounds or the noise of a fan, for example, except they’re a little more pleasant. Distractions can be hard to overcome. We’ve all had those days when we simply can’t stop looking at our phone. Even if you turn it to silent, you can see the screen light up with notifications. Don’t try to resist, just play these sounds instead, and you’ll forget about checking your phone in no time

2. They help you relax

The sounds of nature make you feel like you’re out in the middle of a forest, or near a river. You can close your eyes and imagine you’re on a camping trip. The effect is amazingly relaxing. You know how you feel nice and sleepy when it rains? It’s a little like that. These sounds are very soothing, and you’ll feel better within 10-15 minutes of listening to sounds of nature. This is great for when you’re feeling tired or anxious, but also works when you’re upset. All you need is some time to let your brain rest, and these help you do exactly that

3. They help you fix your sleep cycle

Sleeplessness is sadly common in today’s world, with one in four Americans developing insomnia each year. Nature sounds are a great solution. The soothing sounds block out external noises, and the repetition slowly lulls you to sleep and gives you a deeper sleep. Whether your problem is distractions (thoughts), stress or disturbance, these sounds will help you overcome them. Of course, nature-based sounds can’t replace actual medication – so if your problem is severe, you should most definitely consult a doctor

4. They have zero side effects

As long as you follow common sense, listening to natural sounds has absolutely no side effects on either your brain or your body. In other words, there’s just about no way listening to sounds from nature can negatively impact your health. There are a couple of minor things, listening to water sounds might make you have to go to the bathroom more often, for instance, and playing at a very loud volume might cause problems. As I said before, use your common sense. However, there are no actual risks associated with it

5. They are not addictive

Say you listened to ocean sounds for a couple of years and upped your productivity levels. If you need to stop for some reason (e.g., if you don’t have internet), you won’t have any trouble. Unlike other focus aids that slowly make you dependent on them, natural sounds are not addictive. Of course, if you have noisy co-workers or neighbors that like to play drums at midnight you’ll hear those. You won’t avail the benefits of these sounds, in short. But will you experience any withdrawal symptoms? Never. So these were some of the benefits of listening to nature sound clips. However, there are many, many more!


Natural sounds help you relax and focus, have no side-effects, and are very easy to both find, and listen to. Part of its appeal is because of this, there is no downside and it costs nothing to try, so people think why not give it a shot. I felt similarly. My issue was focusing at work and blocking out distractions. I’d disabled notifications and put both my phone and computer on silent, but I still found myself spending hours every week browsing and just checking my email, over and over. I tried classical music after reading about it somewhere, found it too distracting, and finally stumbled across rain sounds. I played them for a couple of hours while working, and the results were great, my concentration improved a lot

I now rarely feel the urge to check my email or messages, because I can focus so much better on what I’m doing. The only difficult part, in my experience, is finding a track you like. If you end up listening to a clip you don’t like for a couple of hours, you might get annoyed and start to think nature sounds aren’t for you. So I suggest you take your time to look around, try a bunch of clips on the weekend while doing some reading, and get an idea of what works for you. There are many categories of nature sounds to choose from

Now, let’s quickly go over the process. It’s really rather simple – just pick a soundtrack you like, adjust the volume till you’re comfortable, get comfortable in your bed, or chair, and then lie back and listen to the sounds. Try to imagine the sounds as coming from around you. In other words, move yourself from your home or office to a forest, or beach, or riverside. In 10-15 minutes you should start to feel better. Nowadays you can listen to these natural sounds wherever you are, with the help of your phone and an internet connection. You can also find sounds of just about anything on YouTube, which you probably already have installed on your phone