There is research that shows the sound of nature can help us relax. Going outdoors and spending time in nature can have a multitude of benefits, but the good news is that at the times when it is not possible to go outside, playing recordings of ‘natural sounds’ can also have positive effects. Research has shown that listening to recorded natural sounds affects the bodily systems that control the flight-or-fright and rest-digest autonomic nervous systems, and this has associated effects in the resting activity of the brain and bodily relaxation.
What you need
1. Recordings of nature sounds. These could be on a CD, or from Apple music, Spotify and other subscription music platforms. You can also find dozens of recordings free to access on YouTube. You might like to try searching for:
- Relaxing nature sounds
- Bird song / birds chirping
- Blackbird song / Skylark song
- Woodland / forest sounds
- Waterfall / river sounds
- Rustling leaves
- The wind in the trees
- Gentle rain
- Ocean sounds
- Relaxing waves
- Sheep and lambs baaing
See Natural Mind for a selection of 2 minute nature soundscapes – recorded in the wild so you’ll get a real time experience.
2. Good quality speakers. Nothing fancy, just good enough for the sound to be clear and pleasant.
Guidance and instructions
- Involve the person you are supporting in exploring choices of various sounds of nature. Do not offer too many choices at once. If the person is unable to indicate choices, try playing them one at a time to see what is responded to positively.
- Attend to comfortable positioning, body temperature and any needs that will make the person more relaxed, such as optimal lighting.
- Position the speakers and adjust the volume appropriately for the person, considering any hearing issues they may have. Consider any potential background noise that may interfere with the experience.
- YouTube nature sound recordings sometimes have accompanying pictures or videos. Looking at pictures of nature has also been shown to have a calming effect.
- Observe for any indications of a negative response and provide optimum opportunity for communication throughout.
- Be sure to save the recordings that are liked and perhaps put those that aren’t in a ‘disliked’ list.
You could also record sounds of nature from your local area or trips out to parks or the countryside to play back later.
What to observe, assess and record
- How the person is before you start playing the nature sound and any changes you notice during and after.
- Any signs of enjoyment, pleasure, relaxation, agitation, like or dislike for a certain recording or volume?
- Communication made through the eyes, body language, behaviours, vocalisations, body movements, facial expressions, postures and micro-movements, micro-expressions and micro-postures that indicate the person’s internal state.
- What do you feel worked and/or didn’t work? If you find a recording that seems to be relaxing and or enjoyed, make a note of this and let others know so that it can be offered as and when needed or wanted.
© Julie Calveley, PhD, BSc(Hons) Psychology, BSc(Hons) Nursing, Registered Nurse Learning Disabilities
Email: [email protected]
Created February 2021